Anyone familiar with internet culture has heard of the infamous 4chan.org. Many are probably equally familiar with the sort of content that comes out of 4chan. As a member of other online communities (namely gaming forums), I have encountered numerous memes and image macros, many of which have originated at 4chan, including the list from Meme Factory in the New York Times article we read for class: Boxxy, David After Dentist, Star Wars Kid, “Downfall,” Advice Dog, “Imma chargin mah lazer!” Crasher Squirrel, “This is Sparta!” I even went to see moot at the Calhoun Master’s Tea last year as well as Meme Factory’s presentation in Davies Auditorium. Yet I have never actually visited 4chan.org. That having been said, I’ve seen screenshots of a typical thread. But I decided that, for the sake of my blog post, I would boldly go where most internet goers dare not go.
Once I had typed the URL into Chrome’s browser bar, I was greeted with a tame-looking page. With a friendly-looking four-leaf clover logo on top, a list of the image boards, and a sample of recent images and posts, everything looked pretty normal. The recent images posted included an animated pig with a sock, a Gundam-looking mech, and a Canadian flag (probably the most offensive thing on the page). The recent post and popular thread list didn’t include any posts or threads from the hentai or random (/b/) boards.
I clicked open the rules in a new tab before I proceeded into any image board. There were 14 global rules that applied to all image boards as well as board specific rules. The rules looked to be well-ordered and similar to rules you would find at any reputable site with one notable exception, Global Rule #3. “Do not post the following outside of /b/: Trolls, flames, racism, off-topic replies, uncalled for catchphrases, macro image replies, indecipherable text (example: “lol u tk him 2da bar|?”), anthropomorphic (“furry”), grotesque (“guro”), or loli/shota pornography.” Hmmm, I thought, this is more of what comes to mind when I think of 4chan, and especially when I think of /b/. I should also mention that some of the board-specific rules were quite funny, including: “ZOMG NONE!!!1” for /b/, “There is to be no discussion of Ayn Rand” for the literature board, and “GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL. This will be severely punished and strictly enforced” for the Pokémon board. I then moved on to the FAQ’s for the website, which were also written in a helpful, light-hearted tone. I couldn’t help noticing the Culture section of the FAQ’s, especially the humours entry for “Who is ‘Anonymous’?”. You can read it for yourself here.
Having read the required documentation, I continued into the weapons board /k/. I decided I would work my way up to /b/ and I figured /k/ wouldn’t have anything I didn’t want to see. . Upon entering the page, I found a relatively humorous thread with the following picture and the comment “post your shoops.”
Being the savvy internet community user I am, I expected some funny Photoshopped (shooped) pictures. I wasn’t disappointed when I found pictures of the guy holding a large tuna fish, a golden gun, the broom from the picture, and (the least safe for work image on the page) an oversized black dildo. My assessment of the image board is that the posters posted in good taste, using language comprehensible to most people. The images posted were in good taste and not anything worse than I’ve seen posted on other forums. While I noticed the occasional foul and bigoted remark on the board, I reminded myself that this is the internet. I’m just as likely to find that in the Fox News comments section.
Next I proceeded to /v/, the video games section. While the blue color scheme suggested it would be SFW (safe for work), I was greeted with what appeared to be a transvestite about halfway down the page. Other than that one picture, the rest of the image threads seemed on topic, including a NES-themed bedspread (link) complete with NES controllers for pillows, a nostalgic (for me at least) picture from a Spyro game, and a thread about your favorite video games past and present. After viewing the threads posted in this image board, my opinion of the 4channers of /v/ increased quite dramatically (except for the one who posted that NSFW pic). Also of note was that almost all people in /v/ posted as Anonymous as opposed to people in /k/, many of whom posted using a name with a “tripcode,” or pseudo-authentication mechanism.
Before I take the final leap into /b/, I thought I would just point out that there is an indecently exposed anime-styled female on the top of the /v/ page with a miniaturized 4chan logo and name. I didn’t know 4chan outright sponsored that, especially in /v/ but whatever floats their boat, I guess.
And then there was /b/: Allow me to say that the name random was pretty appropriate for the content I saw on the site. Pictures included everything from image macros, troll faces, boobs, mazes, x-ray goggles, and disfigured bodies to boobs, naked women, more image macros, math problems, and boobs. As for the text of the comments: well, I didn’t read most of it. I can say it was pretty similar to what I’d seen on other boards, although possibly more hostile. Apart from the porn, there were also some images that made me say “Oh God,” shudder, and move on. I didn’t end up spending much time on /b/. Because of its random nature, it wasn’t incredibly entertaining. Still, I feel like I saw what was there to see.
The following are a list of my conclusions after visiting 4chan:
- It’s not as bad as I imagined. I guess most of my image of 4chan was based on the bad reputation of /b/. The other boards I glanced over looked reasonable and were often somewhat funny.
- It’s not something I plan to take part in any time in the future, although it sure looks like a way to kill a couple of hours.
- Through my exposed to online culture, I was able to understand most of the goings on of 4chan
- The community of 4chan isn’t as hostile to each other as one might be lead to believe, and most of them have a good sense of humor.
I survived the browsing of 4chan with my sanity mostly intact. For anyone that hasn’t looked at the site yet, I suggest you at least take a look at the rules and FAQs to get a better understanding of how the site works.