Category Archives: Digital

Color Green Protects Eyes

Background: The transcribed conversation between me and the informant shows folk belief on how to protect eyesight. 

Informant: My mom bought a cactus for me… she says it absorbs radiation from computers and cellphones…

Me: Does it really? I’ve heard of it before but I don’t think it actually works.

Informant: I’m not sure, but I fell like it’s just a misconception. Mom says it protects your eyesight…maybe because it’s green?

Me: Oh that kind of makes sense. I’ve heard a million times that green protects your eyes, not sure if it’s true. Where did you first hear that? 

Informant: I don’t know but I’d guess it’s because green is the color of nature and we’re supposed to look at nature more hahaha

Analysis: Cactus or other things can absorb radiation; color green protects eyes. These two are fairly common folk beliefs. They reflect that while we are surrounded by technologies, people can still be suspicious of the constant progress and existence of certain technologies. The association between color green and nature shows that nature is still regarded as healing, healthy, and in control.

The Jersey Devil

Background: 

My informant, NK, is 19 years old and of South Korean descent from both her mother and father’s sides of the family. Her grandparents live close to her, so she spends a lot of time with them. She is very passionate about cooking. Even though she is majoring in biochemical engineering at UC Berkeley, she has always been, and remains to be, extremely interested in conspiracy theories. While she may not necessarily believe them, she enjoys hearing lore from across the world. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance:

NK: So, there’s this urban legend in New Jersey, called the Jersey Devil. I’ve heard about it from different like conspiracy shows or websites, and just word of mouth. Um, and it’s one of those things like Bigfoot. The myth goes that there’s a woman – there’s some variations obviously – but she had one kid or thirteen, depending on who you ask, and she had a pact with the devil or hooked up with him, or something. And so either that one kid or the youngest one was born deformed, so he had like wings and a beak and was human-like but also bat-like. He grew up to huge sizes, and then would be seen around New Jersey, I’m not sure which area. And then there’s been sightings, I’m not sure when the first one was, but there were a lot in the 20th century. I wanna say it’s similar to Mothman: big wings, red eyes, part human. 

SW: Do you know anything about the origins of the story?

NK: I’m not sure, but I think there were some sightings that were hard to explain, so people kind of made up the lore to explain them. 

Thoughts:

I love urban legends. As NK pointed out, like many urban legends, it’s safe to assume that the legend of the Jersey Devil developed in response to some unexplained sightings in an effort to make sense of them. There are a few different variations of the Jersey Devil legend. Most seem to identify the woman NK mentioned as Mother Leeds, as Leeds was one of the first settlers in New Jersey, and family with the name Leeds can still be found there today. There have been numerous accounts and sightings of the Jersey Devil, many of which can be found all across the internet. For more background on this urban legend and personal sightings of the Jersey Devil, see “The Jersey Devil.”

Annotation:

“The Jersey Devil.” Weird NJ, Weird NJ, 13 Jan. 2017, weirdnj.com/stories/jersey-devil/.

Facebook Senior Names

Background: 

My informant, AK, is a 19 year old student at the University of Michigan. She was born and raised in Southern California and is studying engineering. While in high school, AK was an active member and team captain of her school’s swim team. She attended the school from kindergarten until she graduated and knew the place inside and out. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance: 

AK: For as long as I can remember, it’s been tradition at our high school to make a fake name on facebook for senior year. Everyone would make a pun based off their name, referencing a movie or celebrity. When it first started, it was to protect people’s identities, so that of prospective colleges looked up students on facebook, they wouldn’t find their page. By the time we were seniors, there wasn’t really a need to do this because it was general knowledge that colleges didn’t really care, but our grade kept on with the tradition anyways.

Thoughts:

It’s interesting to understand where some aspect of folklore comes from, and to see how its meaning has changed over time. What started as a superstition morphed into a tradition that stood to be a rite of passage. Kids as early as freshman year would begin to think about their senior name, anxious to be done with high school and on their way to college. Senior names were a way of expressing yourself, while also engaging in a unifying experience across the grade.

The Ritual Game: One Man Hide-and-Seek

Interviewer: Okay so how do you play this game?

Informant: Well as the name suggests you have to do this alone, while everyone is out of the house, preferably. You take an old doll that you don’t like anymore, cut it open and remove all the stuffing. Then fill it up with white rice. Once the doll is totally full of rice, cut a hair from your head and poke it into the heart of the doll’s body. Then take a knife and prick a finger, doesn’t matter which one, and wipe the blood onto the rice protruding from the doll’s back. Once you’ve done that, take a bit of red string and sew up the back of the doll and cut it off with the same knife you used to prick your finger. Once it’s sewn up give it a name, and it has to be a name that no one you know has.

Interviewer: Sounds like you have to be very careful during all this prep work.

Informant: Oh yeah and we’re not even done yet. Actually playing the game is specific too. You then have to take the finished doll to a bathroom, run a shallow bath, and then place the doll in the water. Turn out all the lights in the house, finding a hiding spot and count to ten. You shouldn’t forget to take the knife with you when you go to hide. Say ‘ready or not here I come’ then go back to the doll. Repeat ‘I found you, I found you, I found you’ then ‘you’re the next it, you’re the next it, you’re the next it’ and tie the knife to the doll’s hand. Then go to hide again, it doesn’t have to be in the same place. If you make it to sunrise, you’ve won the game.

Interviewer: Do you get anything out of winning?

Informant: No, I don’t think so. You just get bragging rights.

Interviewer: What happens if you lose?

Informant: The doll kills you, supposedly. But if you need to stop the game, like if the doll finds you, it’s recommended that you always have a glass of salt water prepared to pour on the doll. When you pour the water, shout ‘I win, I win, I win’ then the game is over.

Background: One Man Hide and Seek was part of a film project that she was doing for school. She researched this game but does not remember which sites she learned it from or its origin.

Context: I was interviewing my informant for rituals that she learned about through research and hearsay from others. She was happy to tell me about this one since it resulted in one of her favorite movies that she made.

Thoughts: I severely doubt that the original reason for doing One Man Hide and Seek was just so one could have bragging rights, so it must have been a ritual for something else originally. I did a little digging online and found a site that suggests the ritual was originally posted on a ‘Japanese horror bulletin board.’

Please see “One-Man Hide and Seek / Hide and Seek Alone.” Know Your Meme Accessed March 20, 2020

Garlic Coronavirus Meme

Context: The following is a meme from the informant, my maternal uncle. It was meant as a humorous reaction to the announcement of social distancing in reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Background: My uncle, being a surgeon, shared this meme that had been circulated by his fellow medical professionals.

Main piece: 

Analysis: This meme attempts to make light of a very serious situation and bring about some humor, especially because the medical workers who saw it were most likely very stressed and concerned due to the deteriorating situation. This was also likely a direct response to the announcement of social distancing and to keep six feet apart from others, proposing a lighthearted approach as to how one could ensure they would be following those rules.

Simp: A Teen Colloquial Term

Context: The following interview was conducted online between the informant (CG) and I(Me). The informant is a freshman at CSUN. He encountered the term on social media and in-person with his peers and classmates.

CG: Most people think a simp is a kind gentleman who would do anything for women. Just kidding a simp is a boy who obsesses over women and does extreme things to get their attention. It’s like saying you’re a slave to women.

Me: Where did you first hear of the term simp?

CG: I  always described some guys to be like this but never knew about this term until I saw this on Twitter or Instagram. I see it a lot when guys would share their dm’s(direct messages) on their feed and sometimes others would call them a simp.

Me: Does a simp always have to be a guy?

CG: Not necessarily, I see it being used as a term for being sad over someone in general but because guys have more sexual tendencies and want women more, I see it more in men.

Me: Is a simp a bad thing?

CG: I think it is being overused and oversaturated. Generally, it is looked down upon now since it is used too much, but before it used to be something somewhat serious since it meant that someone was really hurting but now it’s more of a meme.

Thoughts: The creation of the word in itself shows the emphasis on mental health that a majority of young adults value. It is interesting how the word has changed to a meme. Its change in meaning shows how we are slowly being desensitized to many modern problems.

Meta: Gamer Slang

Main Piece: A meta is something that is mainstream. When playing competitive multiplayer games, there are always certain parts of the game, like characters, weapons, strategies that are better than the rest. When it comes to a high level of play where people are closer in terms of skill, every advantage you can take counts. Because of that, a bunch of people have coined that term, for things in a game that is trending or popular. These are most of the time made by professional gamers and streamers who are popular within the gaming community. Now whenever something is popular or trending, my friends and I call it meta like saying “Oh this is the new meta” when we do something crazy or out of the box. That could also be off-meta. It’s something we use whenever there’s a recommendation.

Context: The informant identifies as a gamer and has been playing various video games since they were in grade school. He first found out about what a meta is through popular gamers on youtube and twitch.

Thoughts: Although video games are most of the time connotated with leisure and play, there is a side of gaming that is extremely competitive. It tells a lot about the entertainment industry and how it’s shifting towards a more digital era. Athletes are normally seen as big, bulky guys but now with the integration of Esports, the image of the athlete changes. The use of a meta validates how competitive video games are contrary to popular beliefs.

Cuca – The Brazilian Folklore Character (and the Internet’s New Gay Icon)

Informant: Okay. So. This one definitely spooked me when I was… a child? Because there was a – there used to be a – well, there is a popular Brazillian writer who wrote a bunch of stories, and – I don’t remember when or what year, it was a long time ago – but he wrote stories that were really popular like… a Brazilian classic child story, similar with what you guys have here like… Secret Garden or something like that. People were super attached to the characters, and a lot of his characters were based on folklore. I didn’t read these books but everyone knew them, and there was a Brazilian TV show based off them that was really bad. But! For a small child who knew nothing of the world, it was, like, amazing. One of the villains was based off the myth of this, uh… Alligator lady, who was literally an alligator, but stands up, and has hair. And the story behind it, her name was – I can also, when you go back to type this up, tell you how to spell these, because they’re all Brazilian – but her name is Cuca, and she’s literally just an alligator with a wig, essentially. And her thing is – I think she was created to scare children into not being bad with their parents? And it’s basically because – the myth with her is that she would – if you were bad, bad to your parents, disobeyed your parents, went to bed late, something like that – she would get you, straight up snatch you. And she supposedly never slept, so kids who didn’t go to bed at night, she’d still get you. And there was a song that went with it.

Me: What was the song?

Informant: Well, it wasn’t really a song, it was more like a chant thingy. A few phrases that basically translate to “She’ll get you from one side, she’ll get you from the other.” Repeated in Portuguese over and over again. Just to scare kids. And… it worked. I went to bed. It scared me. I have anxiety now. (She laughs)

Background:
My informant is a 19-year-old college student at a small liberal arts college in Washington state. She was born in Brazil, and grew up there, moving to Florida in late elementary school, back to Brazil for a few years, then finally settling outside of Seattle in our last two years of high school. Her father’s American, and her mom’s Brazilian. Portuguese was her first language, and she still speaks Portuguese at home with her mom. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this piece was collected via an interview that took place over FaceTime. 

Thoughts: 
I’m very unfamiliar with Brazilian folklore, which is why I was so interested in hearing her stories from her childhood. I was still curious after this interview, so I went to look up more information about the character, and found out that the internet has adapted Cuca as a gay icon, along the lines of the Babadook. She has become the subject of many memes, most of which are screenshots from the portrayal of Cuca on a Brazilian children’s show, an adaptation of the children’s books Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo, which translates roughly to “Yellow Woodpecker Ranch.” She’s portrayed with an alligator suit in the style of Barney or the Disney characters, with a blonde wig and a cocktail-esque dress with a fake bust added on top. Many have made the connection that in this getup, Cuca looks like a drag queen, and thus the memes began. My informant was not aware of this, and after I forwarded her a few articles (this was after the interview), I believe she is rethinking her entire childhood, as a character that she grew up thinking would literally eat her alive is now a symbol of gay pride. 

Slenderman

“The idea is that there is a man that lives in the woods, he is very tall and lanky, he wears a suit and has tentacles on his back but the biggest thing is that he doesn’t have a face, when you look at him it’s just a white head, a flat nothing. I honestly don’t remember how I first heard about- it was probably just through talking to other kids because it became such a big deal because Slenderman started as a creepy pasta where someone wrote a story and it just spread through the Internet. There’s a whole bunch of scary photos with a child next to him and the whole idea is that he would lure kids into the woods and kill them. One of the things that was scary about him was that the more you research the Slenderman, the more likely he is to get you. So like as you look stuff up, he’s like gonna put you on his list like this person looking too much into it. I don’t fully know how that started and it made it scarier because we can’t find anything about him.”

Background:

My informant is a 16-year old from Kansas City, Missouri. She is active on the Internet and has been on YouTube since early 2010. In the early days of the Internet, people invented short stories that would be spread throughout the Internet via copy and pasting, earning the name copy pastas. Eventually, this act of sharing stories transformed to fit the horror genre and this subculture was known as creepy pastas. These stories are shared in Internet circles as short and creepy stories and are subject to reinterpretation with each telling. My informant, being invested with the Internet, learned of several of these throughout the years and remembered this one in particular. 

Context:

My informant brought up this story during a walk around her neighborhood when I asked her about scary stories from her childhood. 

Thoughts:

This story is interesting as it represents several fears for a generation that is heavily present on the Internet. Firstly, the Slenderman takes from similar urban legends of the past featuring a man in the woods who seeks to hurt others. It should be noted though, that this specific story states he only seeks to hurt children, which is done to emphasize his cruelty and evil nature. Furthermore, it is tailored to fit those who would stumble upon the story, most of which would be younger children using the Internet. Being entirely on the Internet also changes how people could discuss the story, which features prominently in this telling of the story. The informant told me that she heard you could not look anything up about the creature, as it would make you his target. This is fascinating, as it plays into the fears of a generation with seemingly unlimited access to technology, which is a restriction of said content. If nothing else, the Slenderman also represents an entire shift in the methods by which stories are told. Whereas other classic horror stories are primarily told orally, the Slenderman’s origins are entirely on the Internet. This pushed the content of the piece to better fit this audience, and it adapted to address fears of this generation of kids on the Internet.

For an in-depth look at the history of this legend, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/movies/slender-man-timeline.html

Bottle Flipping – Find out if girls like you

Main text:

BR: At my old high school, we’d do this thing called bottle flipping…

MW: Oh yeah! We did that too. Was that just like a NorCal thing or…?

BR: I mean I don’t know, but we’d do it and kids would be flipping these dumb bottles everywhere and the goal was to flick a plastic bottle upwards and have it land on its bottom again. And they boys would be like, oh, if I flip it and it lands right it means she likes me…

MW: Oh, that’s interesting. I’ve never heard that version before…in my school we just did it to do it, you know? There’d be bottles, like, stuck in weird places because of it…

BR: haha. Yeah, all the band kids did it. It’s actually kinda funny because it’s actually kinda hard to get the bottle to land right, so it means, or like was implying, that girls weren’t liking guys back. Especially the band kids.

Background:

The informant, BR, was born and raised in the Bay Area, specifically El Cerrito (the East Bay). He remembers this tradition specifically because it was a fun bonding activity, and also a meme at the time. He looks back on this memory fondly. 

Context

This story was brought up in a FaceTime call. I asked the informant what traditions he remembered in high school, to see if we could cross compare since I went to high school not too far from where he did (San mateo).

Thoughts:

Upon further research, I believe that bottle flipping was done across America, maybe even more globally. It was perpetuated by the internet and made into one of the most popular memes of 2016. I think that BR’s school’s addition of having a girl like you back is really funny because it is so reminiscent of other children’s superstitious games. As we talked about in class, a lot of childrens’ superstition (especially girls’) revolves around who you will marry or relationships, etc. I think it’s just so fascinating that something as seemingly dumb as bottle flipping was able to work its way into that same pattern, probably just because it’s something the youth was doing. It’s also interesting to note that this phenomenon applied mostly to boys getting girls to like them back, as usually it’s a “girl’s game” that involves relationship fortune telling, as we talked about in class. 

(For an example of bottle flipping, please see this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp5QMSbf-a0