I spend a lot of time on social media. I’m also on medication for alcoholism. Do you think the two are related? My therapist does. She also says writing articles like this are unhealthy. Oh well…
One of the things you learn when tracking social media is your job is how patterns emerge. Contrary to humans’ – and definitely Americans’ – perceptions, most of us are not making our own logical decisions in a vacuum. We’re just jiving along with the tribe. We’re a social species. That’s how this works. Anyone screaming about sheeple is probably behaving like a different species of sheep. I’m a dad so I understand how peer pressure can be pretty awesome, actually, but I get how rabid individualism can be a drug.
Social media is a funny thing. It’s possibly the rawest expression of ourselves because it is the version of ourselves that we send out into the ether from the purest place of our central power. You ain’t yourself like you are at 2 a.m. with no controls but the Facebook terms of service.
So, let’s explore who people are. Let’s David Attenborough the concept of social media profile pics. What does the face you show to strangers say about you?
1. Holding a Gun
I make no apologies for my dislike of guns, but this isn’t about that. I have lots of friends who own guns, and none of them are holding one in a profile pic. The people who make letting you know they’re armed often have a couple of problems. One, they’ve bought into the gun lobby’s propaganda of gun ownership as a simulated oppressed ethnicity, and it makes them rather loudly paranoid. Two, they tend to value force and threatening language over other means of communication. Coupled with the safety of being behind a screen, you get a lot of touchy, angry pricks. On a similar note…
2. Overly Nationalistic Imagery
This one is not always true. Around certain holidays and in the wake of national tragedies lots of perfectly lovely people flag-up their profiles. However, folks who never take down their flags and screaming eagles are usually not so much patriotic as they treat America closer to a fanatical religious denomination. That makes the extremely necessary critiques of the country feel more like insulting someone’s faith, and I guarantee that if you follow any disagreement with them far enough they’ll start screaming about disrespecting the troops. Like the gun folks above you see a lot of unhealthy worship of force.
3. Punisher Logos
I haven’t yet been able to track down the racist sub-reddit where this idea probably originated, but a startling number of Nazis online have started using Marvel’s Punisher as a coded sign of their allegiance. Noted Nazi Christopher Cantwell is wearing a Punisher shirt in the famous video from the Charlottesville white supremacist rally where he cries. So if you see Frank Castle’s famous skull design, proceed with caution.
4. The Kekistan Flag
Like the Punisher logo, the alt-right and other terrible people absolutely live for various memes as secret handshake, thinking that they’re pulling a fast one on the rest of us. It’s also their method of plausible deniability, treating hate speech and other tripe as a joke the rest of us are just too fragile to handle. Pepe the Frog is the most famous of these, but the alt-right has a long and often nonsensical history of dog whistling through the webs. The one that I’ve come to detest the most lately is the flag of Kekistan (seen at the top of this article), a fictional country somehow inhabited by nonfictional bigots. It was popularized by YouTuber Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad), and now it’s just bloody everywhere. A friend of mine even spotted an actual Kekistan flag flying in the Texas Renaissance Festival campgrounds. I wouldn’t drink anything that dude offered me if I were any of y’all.
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This is mostly a Twitter thing, and one of the many reasons I don’t hardly use my account any more. Twitter is favored by the folks who congregate in deep web forums to plot online raids and misinformation tactics. Twitter lends itself well to swiftly created burner and sock puppet accounts, so it’s easy to make a couple of bored, hateful dillweeds seem like an army. Rope enough patsies in with a good hashtag, and it spreads like freakin’ Dragonscale. It’s how things like GamerGate and Operation Lollipop got so big, and it’s basically the blueprint for a lot of the Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Anime, especially pornographic anime (hentai), is very popular on these types of forums. This makes various cartoon girls their preferred quick-grab when they need to find someone to annoy on the web. Not always. Lots of good people like anime. If you see someone using a screengrab from a Miyazaki film they’re probably all right. However, if your first thought is “that looks like someone was drawing child pornography to get around laws against that” then hit the block button.
6. Holding a Big Fish
Going to admit right out, I have zero idea why this is a thing. That said, nearly every random person to drop into my sphere whose profile pic has them holding a big fish ended up screaming at me about libtards and #AllLivesMatter and Hillary Clinton’s emails. I could not explain the correlation if my own life was the prize, but it annoys me. I kind of want to take my daughter fishing, and these people have got me wondering if you catch some weird alt-right disease from the activity.
A profile pic is a first impression, and as Maya Angelou once said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Learning to recognize what people are saying about themselves through their avatars has increased my block list, and made my life a much quieter place.