What makes a good CopyPasta?
Copypasta is a term invented for the internet phenomenon of text that goes ‘viral’ and gets spread via copy/pasting. However, not everything can be a copypasta – many obnoxious failed attempts to start one in Youtube comment sections prove that. So why do some succeed in blasting off while others die out immediately?
1) It has an emotional response attached to it – and it’s not a feeling of defeat
This is part of why getting new copypastas started is so difficult. If the target stops reacting, and just ignores or accepts it, it stops propagating. Many copypastas feature a lot of emojis or swearing as a result. For example, when EA made it’s famous ‘pride and accomplishment’ comment on Reddit, the copy-pastes of it featured moneybag emojis between every word. It’s hard to feel defeated when a copy-pasta is calling you names or telling you things that defy reality. Defeat? No, make everyone else feel vaguely irritated too! Irritating emojis and turns-of-phrase litter emerging copypastas.
2) It has to be obnoxious
The Navy SEAL copypasta, a famous rant where an alleged Navy SEAL who specializes in “gorilla warfare” and has “over 300 confirmed kills” tells someone they’re arguing with online that they’re going to wipe them from the face of the Earth with a drone strike, is several paragraphs long.
I Miss the Rage?!, a line from a song with an emoji added to the end, is just four words.
Why are they both copypastas? Easy! They can both be used to wall-out chats and forums. “I Miss the Rage?!” is used during live-streams, meaning that it’s posted so many times in a row that nobody else can post any visible text. This is tough to achieve, but because the text itself is so short, it’s easy for other people to copy/paste and join in.
The Navy SEAL rant is better suited to forums for the same purpose – since it’s long and since most forums don’t auto-scroll like live chats do, this can still be used to wall-out.
3) But not too obnoxious – or too bland.
It’s in a copypasta’s nature to be annoying, but if it’s too annoying, the people who are posting it don’t get eyerolls, they get banned. Examples of this are admittedly difficult to find – like I said, they get banned before they can spark off and don’t leave a trace. If the Navy SEAL copypasta were posted today, completely fresh, and nobody had any memory of it, the person posting it would almost certainly get kicked from wherever they were for hostility. It would be too much. Things that would be copy-pasta-able aren’t anymore, because the internet is no longer a Wild West like it once was.
Alternatively, there’s posting something that’s milquetoast. Something that asks too politely to be copy/pasted. Those are still scattered everywhere. Remember early 2000s humor? You could name something “Bob” or say, “I’m a potato” and get laughs. Now, that humor is outdated. Cringey.
“This is Bob. Copy and paste him so he can take over Youtube.” Was a copypasta that first appeared some time in the 2008/2009 range. Soon, it died there. Occasionally older videos about Nyan Cat or He-Man will have a Bob (or sometimes a Bob-tank) in the comments, but he’s been left behind for the next generation of children to laugh at as their parents rediscover the artifacts. The generation that first copy-pasted him has moved on to fried images and Instagram accounts packed with stolen memes.
4) It can’t assign an identity unless it’s ironic
On TikTok, copypastas come and go in the blink of an eye, but some fare noticeably worse than others. A copypasta requesting that readers change their profile pic to a blue-tinted image of some girl named Melissa and spread the message of the “Step-Chickens” appeared one day and scattered most of the videos on TikTok’s For You page (the For You page is generated for each user, but certain sorts of videos often get recommended to entire communities of people). The reason “Step-Chicken” flared and then died on TikTok was because the people posting it realized it was sort of cringey. The people who started posting it were requesting that other people call themselves step-chickens.
Remember that era where Youtubers used to name their audience? Subscribers weren’t just a fan of a Youtuber, they were a ‘Sparklenaut’ or a ‘Bro’ or something. Part of an ‘Army’. You don’t see that so much anymore, because inevitably someone who called themselves by the fanbase name was going to do something that was embarrassing for the fandom by proxy. Law of large numbers, it just happens – eventually someone throws a fit outside a McDonalds wearing merch or causes issues at a fan-meet. Step-chickens was much the same, as the cool people doing it ironically found out that other people didn’t know they were doing it ironically – they were a “step-chicken” indistinguishable from other, less-socially-aware “step-chickens” commenting the copypasta on videos where it was inappropriate or unwelcome. It was difficult to explain that no, I’m doing this as a joke in the moment when being criticized, especially because that’s exactly what someone who wasn’t doing it ironically would say to save face. If it assigns an identity, someone who has taken that identity is going to create issues for everyone.
5) It can make fun of something if that something is at the tipping point of popular and too popular
Rick and Morty is a TV show. Objectively, it’s a TV show aimed at adults with a record-breaking renewal contract from Adult Swim. More subjectively, it’s a pretty funny TV show with well-written jokes that span a range of comedy beyond just slapstick. Adult animated comedy shows often default to slapstick, so Rick and Morty was a welcome break in the monotony of Family Guy, American Dad, and others in that bandwidth.
However, just because it’s better-written than those shows doesn’t mean someone is smarter for enjoying it. To be clear – there isn’t any science or math in the show that the average American doesn’t learn in middle school. Rick resents being the smartest man in the universe and copes by self-destructing, which – while deeper than Family Guy – is not a new concept. Liking a smart fictional character with a smidge of depth doesn’t mean becoming smart yourself, but some of the worse fans seemed to think that’s how it worked, and even went so far as to say so on public forums.
The copypasta spawned when someone patted themselves on the back for understanding the high-brow concepts of the show. I’m certain it’s parody, but the attitude that Rick and Morty was “too smart” for the people who didn’t watch it was unfortunately more common than you’d think, on Reddit especially.
6) Or unpopular, but well-known
Too popular, and there might not be a big enough countermovement to get the copy-pasta going. Too obscure, and people might not understand what the copypasta is referencing. However, if it’s unpopular, but well-known, the copy/pasting practically writes itself. See Dixie D’amelio’s music.
Most of the videos about her that get tossed my way by the algorithms of Youtube and TikTok are videos critiquing the music. Unfortunately, Dixie is still a teen, and she didn’t seem to have much experience with music before her sister got big on TikTok – they’re dancers first, anything else second. Her lack of experience with writing music is obvious upon listening, but she doesn’t seem to get feedback that could fix the mediocre lyrics and boring beats from her friends and producers. Instead, critique comes from outside, and most people would ignore strangers telling them their stuff is bad over friends and followers who seem to like it. Even saying that, I cannot honestly believe that anyone is listening to “One Day” because they stumbled upon her on Spotify.
Anyway, in the critique videos’ comment sections, lyrics to the song get posted over and over. Who could forget such lines as “Bueeyh sometimes I don’ wanna be happy!” and “One day, one day, I was really really really really sad”? Of course this turned into a copypasta, scattered with emojis and mocking misspellings of the actual words – her indie-slurring sounds together is not helping critics take her seriously, and the age and misplaced enthusiasm of her fans are not helping them take her in good faith.
Be warned, some of the copypastas mentioned are unsuitable for work due to foul language and the site they’re hosted on.
StepChickens “”Cult””: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/26/style/step-chickens-tiktok-cult-wars.html
(I was also on TikTok during this event)
A Navy SEAL shares a piece of his mind: https://genius.com/Copypasta-navy-seal-copypasta-annotated (Genius Lyrics has better hosting than KnowYourMeme – I found them less difficult to navigate and less riddled with ads)
I Miss the Rage ?!: Screenshotted directly from comment sections of [email protected] 2021-06-01 post titled “I Miss the Rage (?! Emojis)”
Rick and Morty Is a Show for Smart People, first posted by user Niekisch in r/CringeAnarchy https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/to-be-fair-you-have-to-have-a-very-high-iq-to-understand-rick-and-morty (please note – Know Your Meme may be difficult to navigate due to formatting and ads)
Assorted D’amelio Lyrics – screenshotted directly from comment sections of Charlie’s 2020-07-01 post titled “Be Happy music video out now link in bio dc @haleygilchrist_ (heart emojis)”
Twitch Quotes: https://www.twitchquotes.com/copypastas/labels/i-hate-twitch-chat
Bob and Tank Bob: https://www.reddit.com/r/copypasta/comments/3tihez/this_tank_bob_are_against_google/