Twitter wants to crack down on repetitive spam — but that’s how some of our greatest memes are born
Since 2020, Twitter has made a concerted effort to crack down on “copypasta,” or copy-and-pasted text repeatedly shared by users across the platform. This week, they’ve updated their guidelines on such “duplicative” content, warning us that such tweets may have their visibility limited. That’s a net good as far as spam and propaganda go — ideally, users who post the same thing over and over in an attempt to game the system won’t be as prevalent as they are now. However, copypasta is also a crucial part of the online experience. An art, even.
In its humorous form, copypasta replicates the experience of a fact or phrase getting stuck in your head. It can function as a sly commentary on the echo chambers of the internet, as well as the layers of quoting and reference that make it difficult to find an original source. There is something thrifty about it, too — you’re recycling a piece of content that shouldn’t be discarded just yet, while indicating that little of what we find in our scrolling is ever really “new.” And the well-timed deployment of a favorite copypasta achieves the feeling of a meditative non sequitur: It has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but it reassures as it circles back to a cardinal truth.
The most beloved recitation of the present era is a call that baseball announcer Thom Brennaman made while apologizing for using a homophobic slur earlier in the broadcast. In the middle of his mea culpa, the Cincinnati Reds’ Nick Castellanos hit a home run, and Brennaman awkwardly interrupted himself to note the play. Ever since — and long after his resignation from him over the incident — those words have been invaluable for communicating an attitude of “welp, that’s the way it goes,” like the verbal equivalent of the song that plays at the end of a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. As you can see in the example above, the line is perfectly suited to addressing wacky misinformation from celebrities who should know better.
Yet that’s only the tip of the iceberg. When you think someone’s paying attention to the wrong thing, you can always remind them that the Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell in a Cell.
If someone disappears from social media, for whatever reason, you can confidently announce that they were a “24 month sociological study conducted by Harvard University.”
Ever spotted a white male with a certain charisma? Then you have to ask yourself: “Quirked-up white boy with a little bit of swag busts it down sexual style… Is he goated with the sauce?”
Need to intimidate someone? Time to borrow the classic “Navy SEAL” rant. It’s a slam dunk.
If you find yourself beset by disbelief, you can always exclaim: “They did surgery on a grape.”
One hopes that Twitter’s anti-copypasta policies won’t erase these beautiful, sacred texts. Some are inspired, some are utter nonsense, but each is a safe harbor in stormy waters. And they give the disjointed flow of digital life an essential continuity. We remember when they were coined, and how we laughed — or maybe we have no idea where they came from, and laugh because it doesn’t matter. While our appetites for fresh, novel, exciting content are insatiable, the familiar comforts of copypasta never get old. Yep, this is what peak performance looks like.