USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

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.


Gatsby’s Facebook Chat Joke

My informant told me this joke as a piece of humor relating to current events. It references both a Movie (Great Gatsby) which comes out this (May) month, as well as Facebook chat, a  currently utilized electronic media.

Informant: (as a prologue) You know Gatsby right?

Me: Yeah

Informant: All right, well you know that sexual tension you get when you and your crush are “online” on Facebook at the same time, and you just stare at the green light chat button?  Suddenly you realize that you know what Gatsby felt like.

This joke relates Fitzgerald’s classic Great Gatsby, by way of its new movie, to generational issues of correspondence. Just as Gatsby looks out longingly at the green lighthouse light which represents his beloved Daisy, so does this joke suggests those of us with Facebook accounts have a similar experience when looking at the green chat buttons with which we  can start conversations with others. Perhaps most appropriately in light of its digital themes, my informant first heard this joke on the internet.



The Purple Pants Man

From interview with informant:

“Um, something called the purple pants man, which is a man who wears purple spandex. We don’t know his age. He could be immortal, he could be eighty, he could be forty. He’s old-ish. And he wears spandex pants. He always has a sharpie in his mouth. He can’t see very well so he has like big-ass glasses. He’s basically like a really old punk/goth, uh, think of somebody from a club in like, Blade Runner. He’s always like in the public library walking around. I don’t know if he has a job. I think he’s a drug dealer. I’m not exactly sure. We don’t know what he is.”

“So basically if you spot him, you have to inform everybody else that you made a sighting. Eventually there was a Facebook group called ‘I’ve Seen the Purple Pants Man.’ There was like a secret photo someone took of him in the library on a computer, like sharpie in his mouth. He has like, I don’t even know, there’s so many weird things about this dude. He has like a cart he moves around sometimes. He has like an old, beat-up car. His mental faculties probably aren’t all there. And, um, what else? I think he tried to sell somebody drugs sometime? I’m not sure exactly. But he’s like, he’s just a character we see all the time. And we’re like ‘Oh, it’s him.’ Nobody knows who it is, nobody talks to him.”

An entertaining bit of folklore with enough detail and flavor to convince me, at least, that the purple pants man exists. I especially like the creation of the Facebook group to spread word of the Purple Pants Man’s activities, keeping him firmly in the minds of the community.


Story of racism on plane

The story goes, which my informant learned from a friend sharing the story on facebook, an old white woman got angry that she was seated next to a black man. She kept getting upset, yelling at the flight attendant as the other passengers looked on in horror, no one saying anything. The flight attendant told the woman the only other option was to be seated in first class and then solves the woman’s problem… by moving the black passenger to first class. Everybody on the plane then started cheering, it is said. The story was one many of her friends were posting on facebook just a few months ago, and it had many thousands of likes.

My informant thought it was cool that facebook to quickly spread such a story, and she liked the story because it was inspiring. I think it’s interesting because of how it perverts expectations. It makes you angry and you want to keep reading to see what happens because it has evoked an emotion from you, and then, because you are already in an emotional state, it is able to flip the anger into joy when the unexpected occurs. We are so happy to see justice in the story then we have a greater attachment to the story. In an age of information where there are millions of stories at your fingertips, we seem more interested in those that are different or more complex (i.e. here the story flips expectations). The story may not be true, but because it is heartwarming, people like it anyway and may even want it to be true more.


Internet Folklore

The Bumper Sticker application on Facebook is a program that allows people to search for different virtual bumper stickers that can be added to their profile or shared with friends.  The Bumper Sticker application has categories ranging from “Witticisms” to “Gangsta” to “Cute Animals”.  You can also view the most popular bumper stickers (the most popular has been sent 5,436,346 times), newly popular bumper stickers, and recently added bumper stickers.  Though the makers of the application created some of the bumper stickers, the majority of bumper stickers are created by Facebook users that upload them to the application.  Most bumper stickers are not specific to a certain individual (or if they are, it is a widely recognized person), but there are bumper stickers that are meant to be understood only by a select group of people.  Also, bumper stickers are constantly being created as events take place in the world or as pop culture phenomenons take place.  For instance, one very popular type of bumper sticker is the LOL Catz.  There are dozens of different pictures of the “catz” that you can share with your friends or add to your own profile.  Another popular type of bumper sticker involves the Greek fraternity/sorority system.  Recently, there have even been bumper stickers created about bumper stickers.  One such bumper sticker reads “Wow. The amount of bumper stickers you are sending me is beginning to get ridiculous.” and then in small print at the bottom says “and of course I love it”.

On the surface, it seems like the Bumper Sticker application is a fun way to waste time on the computer.  There are thousands of bumper stickers to browse and send to friends, in addition to the ability to create your own bumper sticker that you can upload and share with others.  However, the bumper sticker application is so revolutionary because it is a digestible piece of pop culture that can be spread instantaneously.  For instance, as the democratic candidacy race has intensified during recent months, there has been a large amount of bumper stickers that feature people from the Democratic Party.  One memorable bumper sticker shows the faces of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, and underneath reads “Bros before Hoes”.  Like many bumper stickers, this one is humorous yet vulgar, and clearly aimed at a fairly young audience (teens through early twenties).  Despite the crudeness of this bumper sticker, it’s popularity shows that this audience still cares about political issues but has a unique way of conveying this.

Bumper stickers are also used to share jokes and similar interests with friends.  There is an entire category of bumper stickers that feature “life lessons” quotes, and it is very popular for friends to send these to one another as a testimony of the strength of their friendship.  An example of this is the most popular bumper sticker shared on facebook, which reads “My friends are the kind that if my house was burning down, they would be making s’mores and hitting on the firemen.”  Again, this bumper sticker illustrates the common theme of humor mixed with a bit of truth, which makes it especially fun to share with friends.  As a result, many people have a wide variety of bumper stickers displayed on their facebook profiles that are from different friends and contain various inside jokes, funny images, or even a beautiful scenic image.

Especially since the Bumper Sticker application allows users to both share and upload their own creations, the application can be considered a means of transmitting cultural values and establishing individual or group identity.  People display quotes or images that they feel represent their personality, and also keep bumper stickers sent by friends that have a special meaning.  By looking at a person’s bumper sticker collection, it is possible to learn something about the likes and dislikes of a person, as well as their sense of humor.

I have a fairly extensive bumper sticker collection, and I really enjoy finding bumper stickers that remind me of my friends.  I love the feeling of reading a bumper sticker and saying “That is so true!”  I think that this feeling is shared by other users of the application, and helps explain why it is such a popular feature on Facebook.  Also, since the primary users of Facebook are in their teens and twenties, the application is especially popular because it appeals to the tastes of that audience; bumper stickers are easy to find and send, there are both images and text, and bumper stickers are small and do not contain a lot of information on any given image.  As a result, bumper stickers have become increasingly popular and have even become a topic of conversation outside the realm of facebook.  I have had multiple conversations with friends about a hilarious bumper sticker, or about an idea for a bumper sticker that has not been made yet.  Although the application may seem trivial, it actually has served as a unifying force when talking with friends or even people I have just met.  Also, it has helped distinguish my group of friends from other groups because we all share certain bumper stickers that display group interests and inside jokes.