Shitposting Is Way More Complex Than You Thought It Was
Sometimes, the internet is a magnificent place to learn new skills and make new connections. Other times, it’s a bottomless pit of mind-numbing garbage that leaves you more confused, frustrated, and hopeless than before you opened your browser.
For that, you can thank shitposts.
If you’re not well-versed in digital culture, you might assume shitposting involves posting pictures of your poop online. But it’s got nothing to do with fecal matter. A shitpost refers to intentionally pointless, low-effort content that throws conversations off-topic.
That might sound like an accurate description of your entire Twitter timeline. But as you’re about to see, there’s a nuance to shitposting that separates it from the rest of the garbage that clutters your news feed.
What Does Shitpost Mean?
Shitpost is an internet slang term for irrelevant, nonsensical, and ironically low-quality digital content that derails online discourse. A shitpost can be an image or text-only—either way, it’s intentionally stupid and completely out of context.
The main goals of a shitpost are pissing people off and making it impossible to have productive discussions. A shitpost can be part of a coordinated effort to render a particular corner of the internet unusable, but it’s usually the work of a lone actor—the shitposter—looking to cause chaos for fun.
Shitposting has been part of online culture for a long time, especially on platforms like 4chan. But over the past few years, the concept has emerged from the depths of obscure internet forums into mainstream media.
The Evolution of Shitposting
The earliest known mention of shitposting dates back to April 10, 2007, when a user on the Something Awful Forums used the expression to describe the worthless conversations happening on the site.
Soon after, someone created an Urban Dictionary entry for “shitposter:” A person who regularly submits terrible or nonsensical posts to an internet forum.”
That’s a painfully vague explanation, considering 99% of the stuff on internet forums could be deemed terrible or nonsensical. Luckily, the definition of shitposting has evolved over the years to capture its nuances.
For example, Know Your Meme notes that shitposts are usually intended to “derail a conversation off-topic.” This echoes Cambridge Dictionary’s official definition, which specifies that shitposting makes it difficult to discuss something.
In a time when people are desperate to accumulate followers, go viral, and prove a point, shitposters just want to throw a wrench in the system. Shitposts lack any real agenda, but they also lack any real effort—that’s the point.
“The shitpost isn’t an expression of power,” says TechCrunch reporter John Biggs. “Rather it is the derailment of discourse.”
As you can see, it’s hard to articulate a coherent, comprehensive definition of shitposting. It’s kind of like porn: you know it when you see it.
The Most Famous Shitpost: “Storm Area 51”
The best way to explain the concept of shitposting is showing, not telling. Let’s cover the most infamous shitpost in pop culture.
Remember the Facebook event-turned-meme that inspired 2+ million people to (almost) raid Area 51 in search of aliens? The whole movement—which prompted government intervention—started with a single shitpost.
On June 27, 2019, Matty Roberts ironically called on citizens to band together and raid the classified Air Force facility: “If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let's see them aliens."
After a few days, the event listing went viral on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok. Vox called the Area 51 saga “shitposting at its biggest and best.” It’s quite fitting that Roberts—a moderator of the Facebook page “Shitposting cause I’m in shambles”—started it all.
Shitposts, Memes, Trolling—What’s the Difference?
The terms shitpost, meme, and troll are often used interchangeably. While there’s some overlap between their definitions, it’s important to understand the differences so you don’t sound like a noob.
For starters, memes are meant to be spread. They have a template, and people alter that template depending on the context it’s being used in. For example, the stonks and horny jail memes have been altered and shared billions of times.
A shitpost, however, doesn’t have a template, nor does it have any context. A shitpost can become a meme—like Storm Area 51—but a meme can’t become a shitpost.
Shitposting is often confused with trolling, which is a separate slang term for provoking someone. While shitposts can certainly piss people off, they’re not specifically intended to do so.
As the British journalist Jessica Lindsay notes, “[A shitpost] It can be an act that ends up provoking a reaction, but is different from trolling in the sense that it doesn’t have to be offensive in nature.”
For Another Kind of Sh*t…
Shitposting can get messy, especially if you catch the attention of the United States Military like Matty Roberts. The last thing you need is to deal with actual shit. If you’re scouring the depths of the internet, do yourself a favor, and don’t sit in a cesspool of your own filth.
Get yourself some DUDE Wipes and clean your butt like an adult.