Writing a Facebook status used to be just that. You’d write something down to share with your friends. Times have changed. Now we tag our friends in statuses by adding their @name inline or even by letting the whole world know we are quite literally “- with Steve.” The latest trend gracing our newsfeeds is Bitstrips: brightly-colored, single-panel comic strips starring user-designed caricatures of you and your friends.
Apparently Facebook users have realized that posting actual photos of themselves doing things in real life just wasn’t cutting it anymore, and that sharing images of digital avatars in hilarious and cliche fictional settings was the next logical step. With Bitstrips, everyone is an artist, or at least competent enough to create a digital version of themselves using a relatively simple template, whichever.
The general internet consensus seems to be that Bitstrips are annoying. The Huffington Post went so far as to forego publishing an article about what Bitstrips are and skip straight to authoring “How To Block Bitstrips On Facebook In 3 Easy Steps (You’re Welcome)”. However the internet has been too quick to jump to this conclusion. Even if Bitstrips are the worst thing to happen to your news feed, they might also be the best.
The very reason we come to Facebook is to consume content that is relevant to our own lives. If we only cared about seeing the very best stuff on the web we’d just stay on Reddit all the time. Even the content we claim to be the worst is important. Everyone has those friends in their feed that post too many pictures of just their face, anecdotal statuses recalling uneventful days or TMI about personal issues. While these awkward individuals may be the subjects of ridicule during conversations regarding Facebook etiquette, their cringe-inducing content is among the most entertaining on the site.
Bitstrips offer the ultimate venue to contribute these uncomfortable posts to our newsfeeds. Even when one genuinely likes the author of a Bitstrip, the caricature representations of a friend coupled with the unoriginal punchlines in the comics makes for the stuff we love to hate. With titles like: “Jenny discovers the secret of mystery meat!”, “Tony forgot to wear a tie to work… amongst other things”, and “Charles is about to eat the worlds biggest bowl of ice cream,” the fact that these strips are supposed to be stupid is important to bear in mind.
It is also critical to remember that the competition for viewing space is not particularly strong. After checking for notifications, messages, and friend requests, scrolling a newsfeed is by no means desperate but certainly not the reason we log in to Facebook every day/hour/5 minutes. It would be difficult to make an argument that Bitstrips are worse than uncomfortable political statements, repetitive advertisements, and clone-like Buzzfeed .gif collections of movie characters engaging in activities that slightly represent feelings we have about our own lives. At the very least, they offer the chance to create something more artistic than the average “VOTE FOR THIS!!!!!!” posts we stumble across each day.
Before you judge someone for posting a cartoon avatar of themselves loading a dishwasher, keep in mind why you came to Facebook in the first place: to consume content related to the people you know and pretend to know. Just looking at a friends avatar can be entertaining for the sheer value of learning how they perceive themselves. Whether they turn out to be a passing fad or will some day be worth more than 3 billion dollars like Snapchat seems to think it is, enjoy the Bitstrips you come across for what they are: horrible memes whose only redeeming factor is their relevance to the people in our lives.