Theme Blogs: When Everything Sucks, Nothing Does

I’ve always been a fan of the internet’s perpetual refusal to be governed by an ‘official’ body. The internet today, as I mentioned last week, largely resembles the American Wild West: player pianos, a keen interest in poker, bandits, and a whole lotta rules routinely broken by the people, whenever it suits them. But be that as it may, the internet grows more orderly by the day, and impressively, it does it on its own, by the power of its users.

Remember your first GeoCities page? Could you remember mine, while you’re at it? I think I was Sunset Strip. Anyway, user-generated content has been all the rage since not long after the dawn of the internet, and in the last decade, videogames, social networking, and sites like YouTube have helped make the citizens of the internet its architects. A scary thought to be sure, but in all honesty, we’ve done a reasonable job so far.

But what kind of architects are we, and where the hell are we headed? The dominant design aesthetic of Web 2.0 has rounded corners, so that the largely-underintelligent scores of YouTube commenters don’t hurt themselves. That’s a pretty practical feature, and makes the interaction experience of the internet that much more faux-tactile. But I digress; I’m talking more about content, and less about design. Maybe ‘interior decorator’ is a better metaphor than ‘architect’.

It’s All Been Done

So what about content then? What are we filling our internets with? Quite simply, everything. The only time I’ve ever been let down by a Google search has been in procuring illegal intellectual property, and even then, it’s there, if I look hard enough. The internet is so saturated in content of our own design, so full of substance of every imaginable classification, that our only choice these days has been to turn inward – to critique, to condemn, to satire, and to become Absurd.

I speak, of course, of the theme blog.

I’m sure most of you are already well familiar with the concept of the theme blog, and those of you who aren’t probably still visit one or several on a proto-regular basis. A theme blog is exactly that – a blog, with a unique central focus. Techi doesn’t count; though our theme is essentially ‘technology’, that’s still way too broad. The theme blog differs in that it presents an almost obsessively singular dedication to ONE THING. This one thing can be anything, and I’m about to show just how ‘anything’ it gets.

It gets really ‘anything’, guys.

Flame On!

Several of the most popular theme blogs are those that critique, and I mean this in all possible terms. Presented in an unfailingly snarky tone of voice, these blogs catalogue human failings both online and IRL, and display them for the viewer’s pleasure.

The current darling of the theme blog scene, Lamebook is all but a directory of people using Facebook to almost-invariably embarrassing ends. Though names have been erased to protect the foolish, some of the FB dealings presented on Lamebook will cause you to recoil in sympathetic agony. It’s like a kick in the groin. For your eyes.

Similarly, Photoshop Disasters provides the same service for the world of advertising; chronicling utterly awful misuses of everyone’s favourite program to pirate, and ridiculing them accordingly.

Theme blogs with the aim to critique are popular for a reason: we love to dislike things, and all of us revel in the failure of other people. It’s internet nature. It’s why Star Wars Kid is in therapy. Seriously, watch what you do on the internet. Someone is always watching. Speaking of which…

We Like To Watch

Voyeurism is another popular road for theme blogs to take. These blogs tell real-life stories through camera-phone snaps, videos, and user-submitted photographs, and for the most part can cause a viewer to facepalm themselves straight into a concussion (or sometimes, sigh and swoon like a sissy girl).

Possibly the most legendary voyeur-class theme blog, People of Wal-Mart gives an all-but-cruel peek at the bottom of the superstore giant’s barrel of patrons. You can’t help but laugh at some of these folks in disbelief that they even exist, but they do. Oh, but they do. Though now presented in a more classic web format, PoWM had its beginnings as a typical WordPress-style site, and as such totally counts for inclusion here. It totally counts, guys.

Another example is a personal favourite: Asleep on the Subway does not disappoint in its promise – that is, to present for our consumption images of people asleep. On the subway. Unfortunately, it appears this one’s been dormant for several months now, but even then, there’s a mildly substantial archive of hilarious content. Y’know, if you find people upside down on the floor of a rail transit car hilarious. I, for one, do.

Voyeur theme blogs work not primarily because of the same reason as critique theme blogs (that we laugh at the pathetic), but for the additional thrill of the fact that they don’t know we’re watching. It’s a layer of guilty pleasure we can’t get from the blogs that showcase people knowingly publicly humiliating themselves.

When Everything Sucks, Nothing Does

Way back in the intro, I capitalized Absurd for a reason: that I reference Absurdism in the philosophical sense, and not just stupidity (though to be fair, we’re not that far off in some cases). To clarify, let’s hit Wikipedia for a moment. Take it away, Wiki:

“The Absurd”… is commonly used in philosophical discourse to refer to the clash between the human search for meaning and the human inability to find any.

Thanks, Wikipedia, you’re a peach.

Okay, so maybe I just mean ‘irrationality’, or perhaps even more poignantly ‘Dadaism’, but the most recent boom in user-generated content has seen the theme blog reject all rational logic and become a true showcase of the bizarre, both in the cool way and in that ‘what the hell am I looking at’ kinda way.

Running From Camera is one man’s mission to run away from his camera. That is all. He puts the self-timer on, and books it. The fascinating thing is that this formula actually works, and the result is a pretty engaging blog. I found myself a few pages back before I even realized I was still perusing the photographs. Weird.

On the other end of the spectrum, in a realm where black is puce and up is left, Selleck Waterfall Sandwich is THE authority on images of Tom Selleck, waterfalls, and sandwiches. Like, together. Now, I, like you, figured this was just an enigma, an inside joke, a single anomaly in a world of theme blogs that make more sense. Until, of course, I stumbled upon Bea Arthur Mountains Pizza. I have to admit, I don’t get the joke. But I’m laughing to tears anyway.

So What?

Theme blogs, while making us cringe, scratch our heads, and most often laugh, make a statement: that we’ve reached the edge of the user-generated internet. It’s all been done. There’s nowhere to go but back, or over. Lamebook, PoWM, PsD, LatFH, and others have chosen to return as archivists, making example of the best of the worst. Selleck Waterfall Sandwich, Facedowns, and Nic Cage As Everyone have chosen the abyss of Dadaist refusal of sense, and are charting nonsensical courses into nowhere. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface of theme blog culture. There’s one covering every topic you can name, and every one you can’t. Some favorites of mine include Snacks and Shit, Lazertits, Awkward Family Photos, and This Is Why You’re Fat, but there are virtually tens of thousands of intrepid bloggers out there, making the internet a more orderly and simultaneously a more confusing place. Godspeed, you intrepid heroes.

If you readers know of any great theme blogs I didn’t mention here, do us all a solid! Leave a link in the comments and spread the love! Do try to be SFW, though. Never know when kids are clicking.

Written by Ty Dunitz

Ty is an illustrator who stays up too late, and has to wear glasses. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to (@glitchritual), but he's just gonna throw your stupid PR crap in the garbage, so don't email him.
SEE MORE ARTICLES BY "Ty Dunitz"

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