Category Archives: Digital



When asked about the legends that his abuelita would tell him during his family visits to Mexico, MS responded:

“She also told us about the chupacabra. It’s one I actually asked about because my brothers and I played this game called Poptropica when we were younger. It had all these islands you could visit and one of them was the ‘Cryptids Island’ where you had to track down these urban legend creatures, like Nessie and Bigfoot, and one of them was the chupacabra, so I wanted to ask her about it. She said that yeah, her parents had told her about it growing up. So, if people found their goats or livestock with these puncture holes in their necks, they blamed it on the chupacabra.”

When asked what he could recall about the chupacabra’s appearance, MS responded:

“So in the game, it looked like this f*cked up looking, blue dog thing with spikes and sh*t. But, I think abuelita said it was more reptile looking.”


MS is a sixteen year old who has grown up in Los Angeles, CA. His abuelita immigrated from Mexico to Sacramento, CA in 1961. She then returned to her hometown in Mexico in the ’90s. Here, MS is recalling legends he had heard from his abuelita when his family visited her in her hometown during vacations.


This entry from MS highlights the role of non-native media in shaping perceptions of folk legends. As MS mentions, his initial interest in the chupacabra stemmed from its portrayal in the popular online children’s game, Poptropica. This brings forth the question of what role non-native media plays in shedding light on this folklore and what responsibilities it has while doing so. In this case, exposure to the legend in the context of a video game spurred his curiosity to explore the origins of the chupacabra further. However, from his description, it is clear that Poptropica’s depiction of the chupacabra adheres more to the North American imagination of what kills livestock: wolves. This visual description is distinct from the versions of the legend that tend to be seen in Puerto Rico and Mexico, where the creature is described as more reptilian. The choice to portray the chupacabra as more dog/wolf-like brings up another question of responsibility: How should Poptropica, an online game that claims to be an educational resource for children, balance its commercial interests with its goal to educate?

Post-Internet Roman Empire

Nationality: Indian

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Age: 21

Residence: Los Angeles


“My Roman Empire is [something I think about a lot].”


This informant is from Generation Z, and they use social media on a regular basis. They are also studying video games at USC, so they are very familiar with internet terminology.


This phrase is a customizable proverb (and also, to some extent, a joke) that postdates the internet. A couple years ago, an internet trend where girlfriends asked their boyfriends how often they think about the Roman Empire went viral. Eventually, the proverb evolved from literally meaning people are thinking about the Roman Empire to simply something that has been on the person’s mind frequently, hence the phrase, “My Roman Empire is [something I think about a lot].” This internet proverb has an interesting way of connecting the past (Roman Empire) with the present (internet) and using it in a humorous context. The joke begins with the viral phrase “my Roman Empire is…” – a phrase many social media users are familiar with – and ends with something entirely unique to the speaker… something unexpected by the listener. This unpredictability gives the proverb potential to be humorous!


Text: A proverb that postdates the internet – “YOLO”

Informant: NS

Ethnicity: Indian

Primary Language: English

Age: 26

Residence: San Francisco


The phrase “YOLO” became popularized when the informant was in high school (around 2012) after it became mainstream through rap lyrics and culture. YOLO is an acronym for “you only live once,” and became an important personal mantra for the informant and his group of friends.


“YOLO” embodies a cultural ideology that values taking risks with the intent of living life to the fullest. Popularized by rap lyrics and further pushed through digital culture and social media, I believe that the phrase is an embodiment of youth attitudes towards life at the time, placing emphasis on optimistic nihilism. This piece of folklore also reflects a shift in societal outlooks on mortality. Past generations generally worked towards long-term goals. However, newer generations, starting with millennials, have adopted approaches to life that prioritize instant gratification more often. Furthermore, in the digital era, because platforms aimed towards younger generations (such as Tiktok) provide endless sources of this across a user base of millions, the internet has become a critical factor in youth culture. As a result, YOLO can be seen as a landmark for generational identity that represents an overarching anthropological shift in social behaviors and culture. 

The Banned Words

从前有一位国王,他在一次事故中摔断了腿。他走路得样子非常滑稽,人们因为他走路样子而发笑,经常私下嘲笑他怪异的走路方式。为了避免被嘲笑,国王发布了一项皇家法令,禁止使用“腿”或“跛行”等词。起初,人们对这一奇怪的法令感到困惑,但很快他们找到新的词语来嘲笑国王。当国王禁用了一些词语,人们就找到同音字来绕过禁令。 国王变得越来越偏执,他认为每个人都在背后谈论他。所以他禁用了越来越多的字词,直到人们的日常交流都受到了阻碍。王国陷入了深深的沉默,但即使在一片沉默中,国王感觉被嘲笑了,因为沉默成为了每一个他禁用的词。

Once upon a time, a king broke his leg in an accident. He walks in a funny way, and people laugh at him because of his way of walking. They often secretly mocked his strange way of walking. To avoid being ridiculed, the king issued a law prohibiting the use of words such as “leg” or “limp.” At first, people were puzzled by this strange law, but soon they found new words to make fun of the king. When the king banned some words, people substituted them with homophonic words. The king became increasingly angry, believing everyone was talking about him behind his back. So he banned more and more words until people could barely speak. The kingdom fell into a deep silence, but even in the silence, the king felt teased because silence became the words he banned.

Context: The informant read this story online when people were discussing the banned words on the website in a forum. The website bans bad words and substitutes them with the “*” sign, but people find homophonic characters to get around the censorship. Because some of the homophonic words are used daily, they influence people’s daily life, and many of the homophonic words become bad words. Thus, some people questioned the act of using homophonic characters to express bad meanings, and someone wrote this story to reflect the negative aspects of online censorship and how it affects people’s daily life.

Analysis: This story reflects the value of free speech and the negative consequences of censorship on the Chinese internet. The king’s ban on words led people to seek alternative ways to express themselves. This story is a modern fable as many societies struggle with issues of censorship and control over speech and expression. The use of homophonic characters in online communication to bypass censorship is a common phenomenon on the Chinese internet, as Chinese is a language that has a lot of homophonic characters and words. This story reflects the issue of censorship and serves as a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of censorship.

Minecraft Entity 303- Herobrine


M is a college student at the University of Southern California, he told me about a ghostlike entity on the online game Minecraft, which he has been playing for years.


“So there’s a game online called Minecraft and I’ve played for years, but I played when it first came out so I was around 10 or 11 years old. There used to be a supernatural entity in the game called Herobrine. Minecraft can be played single-player or multiplayer, but when you played single-player you are alone in the world you created with only the animal mobs. But this “person” Herobrine was supposed to resemble the main character, but instead of having pupils, his eyes were fully white. He was seen as something of an opposing force, or like a scary entity you want to summon. I was playing with one of my friends at the time and we looked up a summon on YouTube and we ended up doing it. Nothing happened initially but that world ended up being corrupted like things would be set on fire, and a whole bunch of random things happened. Herobrine was never seen in the game by me personally but things around me started changing in the game when they weren’t supposed to. In the subsequent releases of the game the developers mentioned that Herobrine was never in the game; they all said he was removed. He was never considered an actual person, some people assumed he was a bug in the game that haunts the system or world in the server. So, like, in my world, when I summoned him, trees would be set on fire, my stuff would go missing, and my house made of wood and stone was on fire even though my friend and I weren’t there, so I knew it couldn’t have been my friend. I believe I made the world on my XBOX 360, so a year ago when I booted it back up, I couldn’t find that world like it was deleted offline.”


The Minecraft entity 303 or Herobrine,is a creepypasta where an ex-employee from Mojang, the game’s developer company, created the entity to haunt servers in order to have his revenge on the game’s developers and the players alike. This is a classic legend narration in which a discontented person will take revenge over those who wronged them by haunting that which was taken from them or lost. This story fits in with a classic phenomenon in videogames where people make up legends about hacks and bugs, trying to scare people; this is an aspect of the postmodern era, as people that are scared of the new and unknown, try to make up stories about the Internet in order to make sense of that which they cannot understand. This trend is particularly notorious in creepypastas, a genre of horror-related legends that are shared on the Internet.