Twitter wants to tackle recurring spam – but that’s how some of our best memes are born
Since 2020, Twitter has made a concerted effort to address “copypasta” or copied and pasted text that is repeatedly shared by users on the platform. This week they have their guidelines on such “duplicate” content, warning us that such tweets may have limited visibility. That’s a net good as far as spam and propaganda go – ideally, users posting the same thing over and over in an attempt to abuse the system won’t be as widespread as they are now. However, copypasta is also a crucial part of the online experience. An art even.
In its humorous form, copypasta replicates the experience of a fact or phrase that gets stuck in your head. It can act as a sly commentary on the echo chambers of the internet, as well as the quotes and references that make it hard to find an original source. There’s also something frugal about it: you recycle a piece of content that shouldn’t be thrown away yet, while indicating that little of what we find in our scrolling is ever really ‘new’. And the well-timed insertion of a favorite copy paste evokes the feeling of a meditative non sequitur: it has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but it reassures as it returns to a cardinal truth.
The most beloved recitation of the current era is a call that baseball announcer Thom Brennaman made when he apologized for using a homophobic slur earlier in the broadcast. In the midst of his mea culpa, Nick Castellanos of the Cincinnati Reds hit a home run and Brennaman awkwardly interrupted himself to score the game. Since then – and long after his dismissal about the incident – those words have been invaluable for conveying a “cub, here you go” attitude, like the verbal equivalent of the song played at the end of a Control your enthusiasm episode. As you can see in the example above, the rule is perfectly suited for tackling crazy things disinformation by celebrities who should know better.
Yet that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you think someone is watching the wrong things, you can always remind them that the Undertaker threw the humanity of Hell in a Cell.
If someone disappears from social mediafor whatever reason, you can confidently announce that it was a “24-month sociological study conducted by Harvard University.”
Ever spotted a white man with a certain charisma? Then you should ask yourself: “Stubborn white boy with a bit of swag breaks it down sexual style… Is he bitten with the sauce?”
Want to intimidate someone? Time to borrow the classic “Navy SEAL” rant. It’s a slam dunk.
If you find yourself ravaged with disbelief, you can always exclaim, “They performed surgery on a grape.”
It is hoped that Twitter’s anti-copypasta policy will not erase these beautiful, sacred texts. Some are inspired, others are utter nonsense, but each is a safe haven in stormy waters. And they give essential continuity to the disjointed flow of digital life. We remember when they were conceived and how we laughed – or maybe we have no idea where they came from, and laugh because it doesn’t matter. While our hunger for fresh, new, exciting content is insatiable, the familiar comfort of copypasta never gets old. Yes, that’s what peak performance looks like.