Shitposting is posting "aggressively, ironically, and of trollishly poor quality" posts or content to an online forum or social media. Shitposts are intentionally designed to derail discussions or cause the biggest reaction with the least effort possible. Sometimes they are made as part of a coordinated flame war to make the site unusable by its regular visitors.
Shitposting throughout history
Shitposting is a modern form of provocation on the internet, but the concept is not new. Early 20th-century art movements such as Dadaism or Surrealism created art that was intentionally low-quality or offensive to provoke the art world.
Writing in Polygon, Sam Greszes compared shitposting to Dadaism's "confusing, context-free pieces that, specifically because they were so absurd, were seen as revolutionary works both artistically and politically". Greszes writes that the goal of shitposting is "to make an audience so confused at the lack of content that they laugh or smile".
In modern politics
The political uses of shitposting came to prominence during the 2016 United States presidential election. In May of that year, The Daily Dot wrote that a shitpost is "a deliberate provocation designed for maximum impact with minimum effort".
In September 2016 the pro-Trump group Nimble America received widespread media attention. The Daily Beast described the group as "dedicated to 'shitposting' and circulating internet memes maligning Hillary Clinton".
In September 2016, The Independent wrote that shitposting is an apolitical "tool that can be put to a variety of effects". But posts such as these appeared long before the 2016 US presidential election. Engineering & Technology magazine wrote that "shitposting, whether from the left or right, is perilously close to delivering an online metastasis of Orwell's Two-minute Hate [sic]".
In March 2018, talking about Facebook group New Urbanist Shitposting or New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens, Chicago magazine defined it as "posts that are meant to be awkward and irrelevant, aggravating and distracting social media communities from discussing their topic at hand".
In 2019, the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg incorrectly described shitposting as "political parties or campaign groups make an advert that looks really rubbish and people share it online saying, 'Oh I can't believe how shit this is' then it gets shared and shared and shared and shared and they go, 'Ha ha ha, job done.'" The Financial Times said the correct description of shitposting was "posting ostentatiously inane and contextless content to an online forum or social network with the effect of derailing discussion". It gave the example of Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson's being forced to deny she had killed squirrels for fun after online trolls made up a story about her having done so.
Trouble defining the term
Shitposting is often misunderstood in popular culture; journalist Jessica Lindsay qualified it with an actual definition:
Shitposting is nothing of value. It is the online equivalent of shooting tin cans with a spud gun in a patch of wasteland. It's repeating what the person you're with says in a stupid voice until they give up and go home. The idea that shitposting is some media trick that's been harnessed by the Tory party with their Comic Sans posters defeats entirely the point of the act; to be stupid with no inherent goal (or at least not a serious one).
In connection to far-right extremism
While shitposting has in and of itself no ideology, some shitposters have been connected to real life acts of terrorism.
Before beginning his bloody spree, the Christchurch shooter—presumably the same person who wrote the manifesto—announced his intentions to 8chan's /pol/ board. He opened by saying it is "time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort".
Brenton Tarrant posted links to his live-streamed shooting on 8chan, a more free speech-oriented version of the popular 4chan. Professor Greg Barton, an expert on terrorism at Deakin University, said racist "shitposting" is common across the internet, and is a way for people to connect and gain attention. "The thing about social media is that it's social. You want some feedback, you want people to like your stuff whether it's Instagram or Facebook", he said. "Shitposting is all about getting your profile up, getting a response and the more ironic and funny you can be the more you get."
In popular culture
Most shitposting is not political, and sometimes it is done for artistic reasons or to express frustration with the world. The Storm Area 51 event that gained worldwide attention was created by an account called "Shitposting cause im in shambles". The creator of Minecraft's soundtrack, C418, has described himself as "what you would call, a, uh, shitposter".
|Look up shitpost in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- "How spammers nearly destroyed the biggest 'Simpsons' meme page". The Daily Dot. 2016-08-24.
... but that doesn't quite speak to the essence of 'shitposting', which encompasses content of aggressively, ironically, and of trollishly poor quality. Incoherent jokes, hasty Photoshopping, mashups, irrelevance, errors in spelling or grammar—all are hallmarks of the shitpost ...
- "The racist, sexist alt-right is celebrating over Leslie Jones' abject humiliation". Mic (media company).
On alt-right forums, hate speech is passed off as "shitposting"—purposeful offensiveness meant to shock and provoke, a counterweight to calls for safe spaces and trigger warnings.
- "Shitpostbot 5000 proves internet memes will outlive humans". Geek.com.
- "Multimedia Artist manuel arturo abreu on Shitposting and the Infinite Scroll". Paper. 2016-08-25.
I also think I subconsciously associate endless scroll with low-quality / spammy content, memes, shitposting, etc, which appeals to me.
- Biggs, John (2016-09-23). "Papa, what's a shitpost?". TechCrunch.
But remember that the shitpost isn't an expression of power rather it is the derailment of discourse.
- Walker, Alex (2016-04-05). "Purges and politics in cyberspace". Cherwell.
'Shitposting' according to the Open Oxford administrators Ash MQ & co involves 'a small coterie of members posting in-jokes, diary entries, and pictures of excrement' which meant that 'discussions were derailed, serious threads became lost amongst the nonsense, and most of the group's over 4000 members were put off ever getting involved.'
- Greszes, Sam (2018-12-17). "Shitposting is an art, if history is any indication". Polygon. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
- "How to speak like a Donald Trump supporter". The Daily Dot. 2016-05-02.
... shitposting means good posts with bad behavior. It has roots in older communities like Something Awful and 4chan, which celebrates the shitpost like no other. The shitpost is a troll, a deliberate provocation designed for maximum impact with minimum effort. It's bad. It's good.
- Ben Collins, Gideon Resnick (2016-09-23). "Palmer Luckey: The Facebook Near Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump's Meme Machine". The Daily Beast.
- Hern, Alex (2016-09-23). "Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey spends fortune backing pro-Trump 'shitposts'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
- Horwitz, Josh (2016-09-23). "The founder of Oculus is funding a group that "shitposts" anti-Hillary Clinton memes". Quartz (publication).
- "Shitposting: What is the bizarre online behaviour that could win Donald Trump the election?". The Independent. 2016-09-23.
Shitposting in itself doesn't appear to have much of a politics, instead being a tool that can be put to a variety of effects—being used from everyone from the far-right such as Trump fans to left-wing groups online like those meant to support Bernie Sanders.
- Dempsey, Paul (2016-09-27). "Real-world politics torpedo Facebook's virtual pioneer". Engineering & Technology.
- "Why Canada Can't Laugh At America Anymore". Esquire. 2016-11-07.
- Mortice, Zach (29 March 2018). "Meet the 61,000 Transit Nerds of Facebook's 'New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens'". Chicago. Tronc. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Mortice, Zach (9 April 2018). "Meet the 61,000 Transit Nerds of Facebook's 'New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens'". Zach Mortice. zachmortice.com. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- "Year in a word: Shitposting". www.ft.com. Retrieved Mar 21, 2021.
- "This week's biggest Twitter controversy? Jo Swinson's squirrel problem | Joel Golby". the Guardian. Nov 21, 2019. Retrieved Mar 21, 2021.
- "FAO BBC, this is what shitposting actually is". Metro. 2019-11-08. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
- "Shitposting, Inspirational Terrorism, and the Christchurch Mosque Massacre". bellingcat. 2019-03-15. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
- Boseley, Matilda (2019-03-17). "Inside the 'shitposting' subculture the alleged Christchurch shooter belonged to". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
- TellMAMA (2019-03-15). "Brenton Tarrant: How the media helped turn the 'shitposting' terrorist into a meme". TELL MAMA. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
- Frank, Allegra (Jul 12, 2019). "More than 2 million people have RSVP'd to "storm Area 51"". Vox. Retrieved Mar 21, 2021.
- "Where can I stalk, I mean… find Daniel?". Retrieved Mar 21, 2021.