The rabbit: erwt.org
If you are a male between 15 – 35 years old: an anime-lover, a man who likes ‘my little pony’ or just a mainstream weirdo, you might have heard of 4chan. For those who have never heard of this phenomenon, I will try to describe it in a clear way, which is a pretty hard task.
I would describe 4chan as an image board, something like Reddit or 9GAG, where you can post anonymously. To me, it is something between Facebook and the dark web. The main thing that distinguishes 4chan from other mainstream social media websites is the fact that it is anonymous. It has neither memory nor an archive. So what you write will disappear after some time. You don’t need to provide the site with your e-mail address and if you want to write or comment, you just get a temporary number that you use for one comment.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
To me 4chan was (and maybe still is) a mystery. To get an idea of what I was getting myself into, I watched a youtube video of the creator of this website: Moot. If you have never heard of 4chan, I would suggest you do the same thing in order to understand anything of my article.
I’m going down the rabbit hole. I’m going to see for myself what this website is all about. And what does a nice, well-raised girl do when she explores something new? Right. She reads the ‘rules’, which, I realised pretty quickly, are absolutely not followed by the 4chan-users. But this one sentence stood out to me: ‘The use of 4chan is a privilege, not a right.’ I wanted to experience that.
GET BACK TO REDDIT
When you try to ‘experience’ 4chan for the first time, it is basically impossible. It is very complicated, ugly and absolutely not user-friendly. Luckily I was guided trough the process of my first encounter with the website by my rabbit.
First I needed to understand the concept of the human centipede. The human centipede is based on a thriller directed by Tom Six where a crazy surgeon kidnaps three tourists and surgically joins them mouth to anus. This conjoined triplet is called the human centipede, where the first person obviously is the luckiest one. Anyway this sick principle is also used to describe the hierarchy of the Internet.
So ‘original content’ is said to be created on 4chan and then filtered for reddit and eventually, the mainstream stuff makes it to Facebook and the regular social media sites. So the original, unfiltered content you will find on 4chan. If this is too sensitive for you, you should ‘downgrade’ to reddit. And if you even can’t handle that, just stick to Facebook.
TITS OR GET THE FUCK OUT
The only way I could ever understand why people liked this site, was by being an active user on it, which was the next step. I came across porn, fitness-addicted men asking if their body looked nice, some racist shit and grown-ass men who have a fetish with My Little pony. This was not going well.
I was getting demotivated. To me 4chan was just a ton of crap put together by some weirdos. I felt uncomfortable reading it and posting on it. I tried to interact with people to try to understand the motivation for wasting their time on a website like this. But every time I mentioned I was a woman posting on 4chan, the only reactions I would get were: ‘Boobs with timestamp’ which meant that I should post a picture of my boobs with the date and time written on a paper next to it, so they were sure I was a girl. I was obviously never going to do that so people lost their interest in my posts.
LURK MOAR NEWFAG
When you are active on 4chan and know all the inside-jokes and sayings, you can identify as an ‘oldfag’, which means you are an OG user. I would identify as a ‘newfag’ because I didn’t understand a thing of what was happening or what all the memes meant.
My rabbit advised me to watch some more youtube videos about 4chan. He showed me some funny things the users of 4chan had accomplished. For example: troll online contests. They trolled an online competition for choosing the country where Justin Bieber would give his first concert back in the day. 4chan decided they wanted Justin Bieber to go to North Korea. The contest was taken offline after the marketing team of Justin realised they were being trolled.
Another example of a similar prank: There was an online contest for which fan of Taylor Swift could win a meet-and-greet. Obviously the people of 4chan trolled this contest too. A middle-aged man entered the contest and users of 4chan began voting for him in massive amounts. Understandably he won the contest but he never got to meet Taylor.
This was so funny to me. What do people do when they have free Internet, no limits and no barriers? They just troll Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift so maybe I do like these people.
To understand the magnitude of this army of people, I went to look for other cases. I stumbled across the iPhone cases where the users of 4chan created fake advertising that claimed that if you upgraded your iPhone software, your iPhone would be waterproof. A year later, with the release of IOS 8, again fake advertising, created by the users of 4chan, claimed that you could charge your phone by putting it in the Microwave. I don’t know who would actually be that stupid to try it but people were indeed that stupid.
If you want to see this with your own eyes, definitely watch the video below. It’s really funny.
Another case that really astonished me is the following: Bike-lock guy. If you want to see the full story, you should again watch the video below. I’ll briefly summarise it.
A guy with a bike-lock assaulted a man named Sean at a battle between Redpill alliance and Antifa horde. The man who was assaulted was trying to keep the two groups from fighting. He was standing there as a peacemaker and didn’t harm anyone.
All of a sudden, a masked man bangs into Sean’s head with a bike lock, Sean ended up in the hospital with a bleeding head. On 4chan this event went viral. An ‘army’ was formed to fight for justice. A group of anons (that’s how users of 4chan call each other) analysed all the footage from the event and identified the masked man in a few hours. He was a teacher’s assistant at a university specialising in Ethics and Moral Philosophy. When the news came out, he was fired from his job and he got three years probation.
“They put CSI to shame” -Moot
WE ARE NOT YOUR PRIVATE ARMY
I want to mention these cases to stress the impact a website like 4chan can have on our world. It’s not just a group of anonymous people being silly and weird on the Internet. They can have a huge impact on social events and maybe even on politics. You can find documentaries on the Internet about how President Trump is ‘made’ on 4chan, to name an extreme example.
The power that a large, easy accessible group of techies has cannot be underestimated, however, you can’t just ask them to do your dirty work. The users of 4chan choose themselves which injustice they are going to fight. They are not your private army.
Unfortunately there is also a downside to this form of ‘free’ Internet. On March 15th, 50 people where killed in Christchurch, New Zealand. The shooting took place at a mosque during Friday prayer. The gunman streamed this massacre on Facebook live. The shooter was a white supremacist that had been radicalised for years.
This horrible event was announced on 4chan. Not only announced but also encouraged by its users. Although the video of this massacre has been removed from Facebook, it is still circulating on 4chan. I saw the video of the massacre with the song ‘Don’t stop me now’ from Queen as underscore. This is the downside of an unfiltered site where everything is allowed.
READ THE STICKY
Now if you ever want to explore 4chan yourself, you should know that there are different boards. Every board has its own theme. Down below you see all the boards.
The first post on every board is a ‘sticky’, here you can find the rules of the board and links to beginners guides to the board. Some boards are more innocent than others. In the category NSFW (Not Safe For Work) you will find porn and questionable pictures. In general the other boards are safe but it is a free form of Internet so don’t depend on the users of 4chan for always doing what is politically correct. It would take us too far to explore every single one of these boards so I will describe a few.
- /mlp/ – Pony
The pony board is a board dedicated to My Little Pony. As a 21-year-old girl, a big part of my youth consisted of watching My Little Pony, so it caught my attention. This board is obviously not for young little girls because how would they find it? It is for middle-aged men who like to watch My Little Pony. These men are called ‘bronies’.
Yeah.. Pretty weird. I scrolled down this page and I quickly realised that this was not some weird fetish, these were people discussing episodes of the television show: My little pony, the friendship is magic. Alright then… I guess that’s okay?
- /k/ – Weapons
This board kind of speaks for itself. It is a board centred around weapons and military equipment. Most users of this board are right-winged Americans who are obsessed with their guns. They share their passion and love for these weapons here. They discuss the old and new but it is not the place to discuss anything political. That content will be removed. Discussions about gun control belong on /pol/.
- /pol/ – Politically Incorrect
This board is for the discussion of news, world events, political issues, and other related topics. Again, unfiltered. This is the board where you will find most racist and fascist things but sometimes also interesting discussions about actual topics.
- /gif/ – Adult GIF
This board consist 99% of porn but there is also something very scary on this board: rekt. These are videos of people being killed. There are people who film their suicide and livestream it. There are also deathly accidents that were filmed. This is also the board where you can find the video of the Christchurch shooting.
HEY GUYS, I AM AN OLD FAG
‘The use of 4chan is a privilege, not a right’ is something I am starting to understand. You need to explore 4chan for quite some time before you will ever be able to understand a single thing. The most fascinating thing is the culture and mutual understanding of using language, memes and jokes. It is like a club but not defined. You are part of a group that isn’t really one. You don’t know who the other members are but there is an obvious connection anyway.
In a world where everyone lives in his or her own bubble, 4chan is a unique and important form of free Internet. Although 4chan is used for racist outings, announcing suicides or terrorist attacks, it is also the last place on the Internet where there is freedom of speech. While Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are controlling everything and blocking your content or even your account when you mention something that is ‘outside the lines’, 4chan has absolutely no censorship (except for childporn). Also on Facebook you only see posts your friends like. You assume that what you see is what is going on in the world. That is not true. You and me, we all live in a small little bubble.
4chan thought me to see and lurk outside my comfort zone. I realised there are a lot of weird people out there. And that maybe I am quite weird myself. Having an outlet to say whatever you want is important. Feeling understood and being part of something bigger is what 4chan provides for those weirdos.