From Vaporwave to Penisbearcats: Facebook’s vernacular meme neighbourhoods

Even though Facebook has reached unimaginable heights in terms of users, the platform still houses a plethora of obscure pages. The Facebook data-extraction tool Netvizz provides an excellent method to ‘dig into’ the vernacular or arcane spaces of Zuckerberg’s platform. Netvizz’s ‘page like network’-function provides data indicating which Facebook pages ‘like’ other pages. Say page A likes pages B and C, all pages will be registered as node with their relations – in this example node A pointing to (i.e. liking) nodes B and C. While this is fruitful in visualising the inner circle of a page’s likes, it gets more interesting when the network goes a step further. By selecting a depth of 2 in Netvizz, the network will also show what pages B and C like. For instance, it will show that node A likes node B and C, but also that node B likes nodes X and Y, and that node C likes M and N. The resulting network shows a ‘weak ties’-network, indicating the implicit connections between Facebook pages. This text will descriptively describe the ‘blocks in the meme-neighbourhoods’.

Disdanus Maximus Facebook Like Network
Click image for full size (.svg)

A Facebook-page called ‘Disdainus Maximus’, a self-proclaimed hub for ‘original content and social shitposting’, generates a particularly insightful network, as seen above. The size of the nodes indicates how many likes it receives from other nodes in the network (i.e. a bigger node means more node-likes), while the more red a node is, the more absolute likes it has (i.e. from regular Facebook users). Note: the network was generated in March 2017, so it is somewhat outdated.

The Disdainus Maximus-network shows four distinct clusters of ‘meme neighbourhoods’: right-wing populist (meme) activism, western nationalism, pluralist apolitical memes and imperial memes.

Facebook Meme Network Trumpist Rightwing Memes

The closest connections to Disdainus Maximus (inside the red circle) are pages that fairly outspokenly portray right-wing sentiments. For instance, Disdain for Plebs (now banned) and The Straight, White, Capitalist spread anti-liberal and pro-capitalist memery. The neighbourhood’s block of Deus Vult-pages indicate a connection to faux-ironic Christian memes. The countryball-block might not be outspokenly right-wing, but some countryball-pages are more partisan than their Reddit counterpart. Additionally, the neighbourhood includes Trump’s own Facebook-page, within a block of ‘establishment populism’ containing Breitbart, the NRA and Nigel Farage. A block of ‘unironic Trump activism’ can be idenitified that hosts less ironic content and more ‘sincere’ Trump-memes, like Diamond and Silk and MAGA Memes.

The right-wing neighbourhood (no pun intended) contains pages with more troublesome sentiments, heavily idolising Western culture. These can be relatively innocent, like the page ‘Traditionalist Western Art’, which mostly posts art pieces without further context. However, more extreme pages also show up, uttering pride of ‘whiteness’ or feverish European nationalism. Anti-globalist and anti-left sentiments are also present, particularly through the page Smash Cultural Marxism (spreading the antisemitic conspiracy of a global network of Marxists pulling the Earth’s strings).

On the left-hand side, a big sphere of less political meme-pages pops up, containing ‘high-concept’ in-jokes. Their names are a sight to behold, with personal favourites being ‘Kermit de la Frog: The Mean Green Meme Machine’, ‘Penisbearcats’, and ‘Avant-garde memes from China’. This neighbourhood contains everything from post-ironic meme-ing to ‘sequels’ of other pages (e.g. ‘This is not a Meme Page’, ‘Full house memes 2’ and ‘META Penisbearcats’). One noteable block contains Vaporwave-page: an aesthetic style inspired by 80’s synth EDM.

Finally, a cluster of Imperial memes shows up, with pages containing an aliterating name representing a former Empire, e.g. ‘Jammin’ Japanese Memes’ or ‘Cute Confederate memes’.

The meme-network was made by Sal Hagen and Marc Tuters of OILab in collaboration with Carlo de Geatano.

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