By Dude Dudunsparce
Social media is very prominent in today’s society. So much information—and so many people’s opinions—can be easily accessed through it. This can be very good, but also very dangerous depending on how it’s used. This brings me to an app called iFunny. Many have heard of it, or even had the app while in middle school. For those who don’t know, iFunny is a mobile social media app meant for sharing memes.
The main content of the app is memes (or other things) that are placed in the “featured” section. All of the posts that don’t get taken down are put into the collective. Here, one can see a variety of things, from pictures of people’s pets to long diatribes about a user’s opinion on something. Similar to Instagram, everything must be a picture. One of the things that makes iFunny different from other social media is that there is very little pushing people to follow each other. Users can follow specific accounts and talk to people privately or in chats, but this is a minor part of the app.
I have had the app for over 4 years, and have seen the main demographic that uses it. Most users are between the ages of 16-25 (even though the app is 18+), and there are fewer users as age increases. It is mainly used by men, specifically straight white men from the United States. There is also a focus on Christianity in many of the posts, leading me to believe that the app has a large Christian population. This means that the majority of the opinions on this app come from a demographic that does not experience the hate and struggles that POC, queer, or other marginalized groups face.
Additionally, there is a strong right-leaning political affiliation on iFunny, which is notably different from the arguably left-leaning politics on other mainstream social media apps. All of these factors combine to make the app a dangerous place full of conversations regarding straight white male supremacy and hate against minority groups.
Mixed in with the cute puppy videos and popular meme formats is propaganda against anything not included in the app’s main demographic. The most common things featured in this category are queer—especially trans—hate, misogyny, and fatphobia. Many people on iFunny like posts about how trans people should not exist, or about how women are, in some way or another, inferior to men. These posts can be “boosted” in likes, so more people see them by spending money. There are also featured posts containing racism—mainly against black people—xenophobia, and antisemitism. While these posts are not the majority of the app’s content, they are still harmful and influence how people think about others. Since many of those using the app are younger, their opinions can be more easily persuaded by posts like these.
While the posts are harmful, the real problem is the comment sections. Comments on hateful posts and even regular posts consist of people arguing the agenda of straight white men. Posts that simply include black people or someone who is overweight have commenters saying the n-word or saying that someone is ugly for being “too dark” or being bigger. Commenters trying to counter these arguments usually get downvoted until their replies are taken down. This creates an echo chamber of ideas revolving around white supremacy, homophobia, and misogyny. I have seen comments saying that all queer people should be killed or that women shouldn’t have rights, and far too many will respond positively to them. These comments will have hundreds of likes, if not over a thousand. The worst part about it is that these people are completely serious. I have seen entire accounts based on stories of black people committing crimes, or of scandals involving the LGBT community just to push their own ideas of how other people are. The combination of posts like these and the comments that come with them create a dangerous environment full of hateful ideas.
It's obvious that iFunny is an app full of terrible things, so why do I still use it? The reason is that I feel it’s important to have a look at what people like this think. It’s impossible to form arguments against behavior and thinking like this if we don’t understand where these people are coming from. In their own fucked up way, they think that what they are doing is best for their community. Being able to combat these ideas leads to more learning than just yelling about what we feel is right. I have been able to help people in homophobic communities come out and help people on the borderline of believing in propaganda turn towards less hateful ideas. This doesn’t work with most people, but helping anyone who needs it is worth it to me. I also think having more people with differing opinions on the app forces people to think about something besides the usual white supremacy they are used to seeing. To make a change in this community, we need to speak up and not let users get away with echoing straight white male supremacist ideas.