Design: You Had To Be There


Posted 11 months ago in Design

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

A journey through time, space and niche Dublin meme culture

A few years ago, I became obsessed with the Instagram account @afffirmations. It began popping up on my feed in 2021, posting carousels of spirited proclamations such as “HUMANITY IS NOT DOOMED” and “I CAN BECOME AN INFLUENCER”. A scroll through their feed feels psychedelic and surrealist in nature, with uber-filtered imagery ranging from luxe 5-star hotel rooms to paparazzi shots of Paris Hilton, overlaid with neon borders and all-caps text.

The account, which now has over a million followers, is the brainchild of Mats Andersen, who was 20 years old at the time of starting it. In his eyes, its aim is to bring more radical positivity into a world full of extreme individualism and harmful wellness narratives. In interviews he insists that the account is entirely serious and views it as an art form.

“The humble meme page serves as a welcome respite from the persistent overwhelm of our suffocating digital landscape.”

While it’s hard to believe that not a hint of satire makes its way into Andersen’s creative process, it is true that there is something refreshing about the account’s relentless optimism. Social media has evolved rapidly over the last decade, and today our profiles feel more akin to digital CVs designed to flex both our personal and professional achievements. Because of this, and due to the prevalence of advertisements and sponsored content, our feeds can be anxiety-inducing spaces.

The humble meme page serves as a welcome respite from the persistent overwhelm of our suffocating digital landscape. Sharing a meme is never exclusively about the content. It’s a way of connecting with your intended audience, whether that’s the people who make up your Close Friends or your entire list of followers. Humour bonds people together. So do shared viewpoints of the world. In the words of Descartes (sort of): I post, therefore I am.

Something happened not long after my @afffirmations hyperfixation. I began to notice many Dublin-specific meme accounts popping up on Instagram. Hyperlocal references provided the inspiration behind their names, with @dublin_bus_wifi, @prazskypapi, @jtpimms4europint, and @viking_splash_tour_driver being just a few. Their posts referenced everything from the (gone but never forgotten) Izakaya smoking area to the universal experience of buying poppers in Good Vibrations.

“In their own words, their content revolves around “nightlife, clubs, and John Francis Flynn’s jacket.”

These accounts are obviously witty, but the secret of their appeal lies in their niche target audience. They have never pretended to speak for the entire diverse population of people who live in Dublin City. Instead they’re honing in on a microcosm of the city’s dwellers, which could be classified as a subculture in itself—the club rats, the Dublin Creatives™ and, of course, the Trinity students.

I sought out to understand the stories behind the meme accounts that have been causing both chaos and connection in Dublin’s creative scenes. I reached out to some of the city’s most notorious self-proclaimed shitposters to see if they would be willing to chat. Many of the owners of these accounts are anonymous, and thus will be referred to using only their usernames.

@viking_splash_tour_driver

I first noticed this page because they posted a meme about my lesbian club night, so it only felt right that I got to write about them too. Trying to make contact with them initially felt like trying to pass an elaborate test. Our back-and-forth involved them moonlighting as a man named Keith who, it turns out, really does work for Viking Splash Tours. Perhaps the owner of the account actually is Keith. We may never know. In their own words, their content revolves around “nightlife, clubs, and John Francis Flynn’s jacket.”

“People don’t seem to care that I’m a real person who is allowed to have controversial opinions.”

“Last year a lot of pages about Dublin popped up, and since we’ve always shared things among ourselves, we thought it would be interesting to create a page focused on our own commentary,” they told me, reflecting on the origins of their account.

“We don’t intentionally set out to scrutinise everything; we just notice things that strike us as funny or worth commenting on,” they said. “We try to avoid focused or offensive posts, although we did receive a complaint from someone about our comment not to listen to the Onion Boys after they uploaded some great new music.”

The account uses humour to a high degree to comment on goings-on in the city, sometimes veering into the territory of light teasing. I asked them how they approach their tone of voice and whether they are ever concerned about causing offence. “Some people in Dublin take themselves too seriously, given that it’s a relatively small city where everyone knows each other or is only one degree removed.”

“We feel more free to express ourselves anonymously, but all the content we post here reflects our own opinions,” they added. “We stand by them even when discussing them in person, which is how most of the posts come about. For example, all the male-only lineups that are still happening.”

“Some people have figured out who runs the page, which is fine because, again, we stand by everything we post,” they asserted. When asked if they would identify as creatives themselves, their response was brief yet intriguing: “👀”.

@jtpimms4europint

This account is one of the newer additions to the Dublin meme page multiverse, with their first post being made in November 2022. Despite their relative infancy, they have garnered an impressive reputation due to their razor-sharp observations on Dublin’s nightlife and culture. The owner of the account graciously agreed to speak to me for the piece. While their identity remains a mystery, they told me that they are “absolutely not” an active member of Dublin’s creative scene.

When asked about the origins of their account, their answer was a relatable tale. “It’s not very exciting. I used my Close Friends for my silly thoughts way too often, so I made a different account so it wouldn’t annoy people as much. The day I made it, I just had a meme idea and wanted to post it.”

I asked them about their decision to remain anonymous on their new account. “The main reason [for staying anonymous] is that if there’s a face attached then people can interpret jokes as me trying to target people, which has never actually been the case,” they remarked.

“I don’t see any reason why the account wouldn’t be anonymous. Not in the sense that I’m ashamed of the things I say, but I just don’t feel like it’s necessary to mention.” They highlighted that they don’t take their anonymity too seriously. “Most of the time I’m happy to tell people I trust. If they find out by chance, I think that’s fine.”

I asked if they had ever received backlash for their posts or been asked to take anything down. “I’ve never directly received backlash for anything, even in my DMs. If I offended someone I’d be more than happy to talk about it and hear them out, but in my experience so far I’ve only heard about backlash through word of mouth.”

“Recently I had to deal with people sharing my personal details online and saying shit to my friends and family, which is seriously not okay,” they added. “People don’t seem to care that I’m a real person who is allowed to have controversial opinions. If you were personally offended and just talked to me about it then that’s completely fine, but I think trying to impact my personal life is completely fucked up and wrong. I’m aware that people know and I’m not particularly embarrassed about it.”

@prazskypapi

It would be sacrilegious to report on Dublin meme accounts without mentioning @prazskypapi, also known as Luke Colgan. His page is truly an OG, with memes dating back as far as 2015, making them almost vintage in internet terms. Luke told me that the key themes of his content can be summarised by his two main passions in life: making The Spire bigger and petitioning for a 24-hour Viking Splash Tour.

“I didn’t really aim to start a meme page,” he revealed. “This has always been my personal [account], which made a grisly transformation that I can’t come back from. Do you know how disheartening it is to lose 50 followers for a selfie because these people followed it for memes?”

I asked him whether he ever considered posting his memes on a separate account and how he feels about having his identity intertwined with his online content. “This comes down to [the fact that] it’s actually a personal page that I made some terrible missteps with. I get why you would keep your identity hidden, though. It gives you a lot more licence.”

“Let’s just say that when I was really wilding making out of pocket memeage I would find myself in real world trouble sometimes,” he added elusively.

“Luke told me that the key themes of his content can be summarised by his two main passions in life: making The Spire bigger and petitioning for a 24-hour Viking Splash Tour.”

“But for real,” he continued, “this is actually how it started. I made one or two memes about The Spire or Grogan’s or whatever and people seemed to like them, so I kept doing them. I remember one particular ‘hit’ was about how The No Name Bar was like grown up Workman’s. Yeah, a lot of my early stuff wasn’t great, but this was probably eight years ago. People didn’t have the same amount of Irish memeage to choose from back then, they got what they were given.” A simpler time, indeed.

Considering the popularity of his memes, I asked Luke if he would consider himself an active member of the creative scene in Dublin. “I suppose so. I’m a musician and I work in advertising, so I’m involved in a lot of the creative stuff that’s happening in Dublin. I just feel like it’s a bit embarrassing to refer to yourself as a creative, although I prefer it to ‘memelord’.”

@dublin_bus_wifi  

The owner of this account ominously declined to comment and absconded in a puff of dust.

Words: Kerry Mahony

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