USC Digital Folklore Archives / Digital

Facebook from a Deceased Relative

The informant wanted to remain anonymous, but she stated that it would be okay to share some general information about her. She is currently a student at the University of Southern California studying through the school for communication and journalism. She claims to be moderately religious, especially after growing up with a Christian family in a predominantly Christian area.
Informant: “So my brother died my sophomore year of high school. It was one of the hardest times of my life, and for the first few weeks after he died I always prayed and hoped that I would see him again. But one day, I don’t know if I was crazy or what, I saw him post something on Facebook. I didn’t get it. Like he was gone, but he was still on Facebook? At first I was angry. Did someone hack his account? Was this some kind of sick and messed up joke? Would someone really do this? But I did some thinking, and, I don’t know. Yeah it’s possible that my brother queued up that post weeks before he died so that it just automatically posted when it did, but I just hoped that maybe it was something else. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but do I believe in my brother? Yeah. Maybe it was his way of telling me he was okay, like the post was about basketball, and he loved playing it everyday. So maybe he was okay? Maybe this wasn’t as bad as I thought? I’m sorry I’m just still confused, and I’ve never really talked about it with anyone.”

Interviewer: “Did anyone else see the post?”

Informant: “I don’t know. I ended up deleting his Facebook later on. The post was there, but no one has liked it. Like I said I could’ve been crazy, or maybe everyone else was just as confused as I was that they just glanced over it and ignored it and hoped it would all go away.”

Interviewer: “So do you think it was your brother’s ghost?”

Informant: “I don’t know. I knew his password, and it wasn’t something someone could just guess and hack his account. I think it might have been. But not really a ghost; maybe an angel? Whatever it was, it was my brother.”
The idea that these posts could have been made by either the ghost of the informant’s brother or simply set up by the brother while he was still alive creates an interesting juxtaposition. The idea that someone could be dead in the physical realm while alive in the digital realm creates this liminal/limbotic idea of life and death, similar to Schrödinger’s cat. While the brother is dead in the physical realm, his “spirit” or “ghost” lives on in the Internet. Again, it is unknown whether these posts were made by a ghost or simply queued up by the brother before his death, but it still creates an eerie yet complicated situation.


Profanity House

The following exchange was between myself and my friend Amy. Amy is from New Jersey. We attended middle school and high school together.

“Have you ever had any strange experiences with technology, like your laptop or phone, that you think may have been linked to paranormal activity?”

“I went to one of those profanity houses and there was one that was boarded up because a ghost supposedly lives there. It was super cold inside and gave me a weird feeling. I went in June I believe, so it was super hot outside but cold in the house. After I got home my phone didn’t work. The picture would fade down my phone into white gradually, and on the occasion I could actually open my phone, it would open apps and type randomly without me doing anything but holding the phone.”

“When you say the picture would fade down your phone into white, do you mean you would try to look at a picture you took and your screen would just go white?”

“Like the whole screen would fade to white. It would start at the top as the picture and about a fourth of the way down just fade into a white screen.”

“Do you remember where the profanity house was? Did you go with other people?”

“It was in New Jersey somewhere. I was with my sister Lisa, Cody and Louie.”

“How long were you there?”

“We were only outside the house for maybe 5 minutes max.”

“Wow. Thank you so much!”


Amy has never had any previous problems with her phone. She suspects the ghost that supposedly lives in the house has a way of disrupting technology, therefore explaining why her phone went blank.


The Godfather of the NBA

This entry was given to the interviewer through digital means. The interviewer asked the informant, Sahit, about any superstitions in the NBA he knows because of Sahit’s die-hard obsession to the sport. He replied with a postseason ritual that he knows Lebron James does.


“So every year that Lebron makes it to the playoffs, which is really often, he has a series of requirements that he forces himself to meet in order to get him into that killer mindset. And it all involves the Godfather movies. Lebron watches the entire franchise end to end and he must be alone as he does it. After that, he’ll read a physical copy of the original book while he works out and prepares to be in playoff shape. He’ll also start to treat his team dynamic in similar ways to the dynamics presented in the movie. It’s all some pretty intense stuff.”

The interviewer keeps up with the NBA himself but didn’t know about this admittedly arcane postseason ritual Lebron goes through. He also finds it a little hard to believe that Lebron does this every time he makes it past the regular season because it tends to happen every year recently. Regardless, it is entertaining to know that even NBA stars are subject to some superstitions about their game.


The Toaster Era

This entry was given to the interviewer through digital means. The interviewer asked the informant, Sahit, about any superstitions in the NBA he knows because of Sahit’s die-hard obsession to the sport. He replied with a comment about the “winningness” of the Golden State Warriors.



“I can’t think of any pregame superstitions or anything like that, but there is this thing that recently came up about a toaster that Klay [Thompson] signed. Some guy on Reddit went to a Klay autograph signing but instead of a shirt or a basketball, he had Klay sign his official Warriors-branded toaster. This kinda became a meme in itself because Klay was just so dumbfounded about signing the toaster that there are pictures of the awkward pause right before he signed it. But, since then, the Warriors are undefeated. This is now known as the Toaster Era and the Warriors are 20-0 in the Toaster Era.”


The interviewer had heard about the “Toaster Era” but didn’t know what it was attributed to in the first place. More than anything, this whole thing seems like a passing meme about the Warriors’ insane ability to win against any team in the NBA. I really doubt that the Warriors are undefeated solely due to the toaster, but it is nevertheless entertaining to think of this superstition as a reason for their repeated victories.




This entry was given to the interviewer through digital means. The interviewer asked the informant, Sahit, about any legendary stories in the NBA he knows because of Sahit’s die-hard obsession to the sport. He replied with a certain player’s meteoric rise in the NBA, an era called Linsanity, named for Jeremy Lin


“Linsanity started off as a pretty mundane thing in the NBA. One of the more athletic players, Jeremy Lin was rising through the ranks in early 2012 when players like Kobe Bryant were in their prime and no one had heard of Jeremy Lin before this. Players in the NBA do get better, but no one ever did it as fast as Lin did, until his performance against the Lakers with Kobe at his prime. Just a year before this he was considered a poor player, and even a month before he was seen as a bench player, at best. The day of the Lakers game, it was fair to say that no one expected him to put up even 20 points, let alone 38 points. He even forced Kobe to play for longer than he intended to and still outscored him. This was the pinnacle of Linsanity”

The interviewer thought this story was interesting, but he heard a different spin on the Linsanity era. As far as he had known, the reason for the large amounts of attention Lin was getting was due to a minority’s increased prevalence in the league. He can definitely appreciate just how the era of Linsanity must have felt to his fans and NBA viewers. Lin was in the league knocking on the doors of the greats, having been dismissed completely just so quickly beforehand.


Fizdale is a Legend

This entry was given to the interviewer through digital means. The interviewer asked the informant, Sahit, about any legendary stories in the NBA he knows because of Sahit’s die-hard obsession to the sport. He replied with a certain coach’s recent interview after a blowout.


“So this happened after a pretty bad loss to the Spurs in the playoffs. Coach Fizdale, the Grizzlies’ coach, was asked for a statement after the game and it wasn’t hard to tell that he was pretty pissed off about how the game went because of foul calls that went mostly to the Spurs. In fact at the end of the game, just one player on the Spurs had more calls than the entirety of Fizdale’s team. He got really angry during the interview and made statements like “They ain’t gon rook us” and “Take that for data” that quickly became viral. It turned into meme status overnight. Text-based comment boards for the NBA all over the internet started to apply his statements to every little aspect of unfairness seen in the NBA and it was pretty funny. Still, overall, pretty legendary of Fizdale to go out and say that.”

The interviewer remembered seeing the interview posted online but didn’t know that it had escalated to “meme status” in NBA communities. Taken out of context, I suppose that the statements “they ain’t gon rook us” and “take that for data” would become funny if used for every single circumstance.


Pointy Thing Meme

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor. The informant tells me(AK) about a very popular meme regarding the recent construction on USC’s campus.

SM: Let me tell you about this new meme, it’s called the “Pointy Thing” meme (shows picture on phone). pointythingmeme

AK: I actually haven’t seen this one, can you explain a little about how this started?

SM: You know, I’m actually not sure. I just remember seeing someone post about it on the USC meme page and it kind of took off from there.

AK: Do you think this says anything about our student body?

SM: I think it’s a great thing that we’re all able to make jokes about something like this. You know, even Nikias posted about these “pointy things” on his Instagram, so it just seems like something everyone can laugh about.

I found this piece to be incredibly interesting because not only did it feature a very modern form of media, but also because it referenced the specific folklore of a college. In today’s day and age, people are always in search of a form of immediate gratification. Memes are the perfect outlet for quick jokes or puns because they feature a short amount of text that highlight a funny or playful picture. For this reason, memes are the perfect way for something like this to spread quickly across a college campus to the point where even the president hears about it. The other thing that made this so interesting to hear about is the fact that it is relevant only to USC. Any group, large or small can have folklore, and this piece is a testament to that fact.


An Encounter With A Bolero Musician

The informant is a musician from Oaxaca, Mexico. He has been playing Bolero music for sixteen years and is incredibly talented. I approached him at an outdoor coffee shop after hearing him on his guitar. I’ve included a clip of him strumming a Bolero chord.

“Yes so, something I would like to share is music. When I think of folklore I think of my music, Bolero music, the genre of Bolero music. It was something that was taught to me by my dad when I was ten years old. And Bolero music comes from Cuba but it also kind of influenced from myself, to stay connected to my own culture, my own language.

So there’s a folklore of Bolero music. It’s kind of a lost tradition. So I celebrate it, I preserve it, everyday by playing the music, if not listening to it, that style of song on Spotify or on the radio.”

How did your father introduce it to you?

“I think through cassettes or CDs, we would listen to it every evening. And he told me and my brother ‘I want you to learn it, to learn this type of music. So he hired a teacher because it’s folk music. So Bolero is folk music, so you won’t learn it in universities or in schools. It’s specific to my culture.”

So what makes Bolero music distinct, what defines it?

“In my opinion what makes it distinct is the lyrics and talking about it musically, chords, the artists, what they call the golden era of Bolero music. It was started in the 1920s. It started in Mexico. But the music has history since 1883, so it has African, Cuban, European influences.

It’s a lot of heartbreak songs, like blues. But also celebrating love. There used to be serenades, like back in the 1930s-40s where you would serenade a woman that you felt attracted to, a partner. So it’s about love songs, it’s about feeling nostalgia.

I’ve been playing since I was fifteen, so sixteen years now. So now I’m trying to preserve it myself through a concert series that I started two years ago. There’s a lot of artists in LA that play this music but there’s no space or outlet for them to showcase especially folk music, and just folk music in general. So I created this concert series called Boleros De Noche.”

Some songs the informant recommended: Sin Ti, Amorcito Corazon, Cien Años, Sabor a mi, Besame Mucho. The first bolero is called Tristesas. That’s the first Bolero recorded.


The Eagle Doesn’t Hunt Flies

I include this piece after an informant with family in Catalan told me that Catalonian proverbs are excellent. This one I found independently, but I quite like it.

L’àliga no caça mosques” 

In English translates to”

“The eagle doesn’t hunt flies”

Analysis: This is a brief but captivating proverb. I see it as a good summary of the wisdom that bickering about trivial things, and the accompanying haughty attitude one often finds in such situations, accomplishes nothing, and actually reflects quite poorly on the individual. A truly noble or wise individual deals with things in a just and calm manner, doesn’t chase after meaningless things and knows their position; thus, an eagle (the ruler of the skies) doesn’t bother with lowliness.


Bob Ross Twitch Meme

Informant: Alex is a 23-year-old from Southern California. He self-identifies as a gamer. He also frequently uses Twitch, a website that allows people around the world to stream videos – especially of themselves playing video games – live.

Main Piece:

Background Information about the Performance: This piece was found online by the informant. It depicts Bob Ross, a famous painter and TV personality, painting the Twitch logo. Bob Ross is a popular meme on Twitch following a nine-day-long marathon of his original program, The Joy of Painting. In this meme, his face has been replaced by another Twitch meme, Kappa. Kappa is a prominent emote used on Twitch videos.

Context of Performance: This meme is spread around internet communities, specifically through Twitch and other social media sites.

Thoughts: This particular meme is somewhat unique as it combines two separate memes in the Twitch community. It is also notable as it is authored media that has become a meme spread around the community.