I’m always surprised, if not taken aback by how many of my peers do not really use Twitter. To my dismay, I find myself referencing the social platform very often in conversation (it’s the source of all my information) and am met with a blank stare. Most often, I am told by acquaintances or good friends, “I’m more of an Instagram person,” which is like telling a baseball fan that you’re more of a foodie.
Why Instagram is a more accessible and “mainstream” social platform I cannot say, nor am I really interested. Any Redditor knows far too well you cannot convert someone who simply does not have that interest. Tumblr has a similar problem, and it’s not for a lack of smart, funny, engaging people and content.
When I prompt them, these people who “are more Instagram people” will tell me the app is great because of accounts such as “The Fat Jewish” and “Fuck Jerry.” When I tell them that these accounts simply cherry pick jokes from Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr, I am often told “who cares?” I care. While sometimes the content is original, often it’s a meme or tweet lifted from a less popular account and promoted to the popular page by these two who have somehow deemed themselves the curators of internet image-sourcing.
Both accounts aren’t really trying to hide the fact that they are effectively retweeting content from one medium to another, and no one seems to really be all that upset, which in itself is problematic. The consumers of funny, dumb internet shit don’t really care where it comes from, or how it gets to Fuck Jerry or The Fat Jewish, only that it reaches their screen. When people say The Fat Jewish is funny what they really mean is that his account, made up of a million other people’s jokes, is funny.
Thing is, Fat Jew, Joshua Ostrovsky, is funny. Six years ago, if you had told me The Fat Jew from the rap group Team Facelift would be a semi-recognizable celebrity, I wouldn’t have believed it. But his debauchery offline, which is all original content, seems to be marketable thanks only to his online following. This New York Times profile aptly titled “Shortcut to Comic Celebrity,” details both his social media rise and his offline persona.
The real problem with Fat Jew and Fuck Jerry, from an ethical standpoint, is that there is money to be made in their curation and re-dissemination of internet content. It’s in the second graph of the Times feature on the Fat Jew: “It is his comedic alter ego, his Instagram persona and, if he has his way, his ticket to wealth and mainstream media success.” Billboard’s article on him claims he gets paid $2,500 to feature brands in his photos or attend their events. This isn’t about Internet people getting paid. It’s about making a profit from other people’s content. The internet is still the wild west when it comes to assigning credit to original material. Because we do not make money from this blog, we don’t worry much about crediting photos, for example. Now that the Fat Jew and FuckJerry have become cultural icons, it’s time we stop allowing them to profit from other people’s material.
Fat Jew and Fuck Jerry aren’t going away. Their accounts are the George Takei Facebook of Instagram. Admittedly, we need people to curate the best content, but it’s impossible to find everything great that’s out there. The problem is when you and your followers start viewing it as your own, and are not at all interested in finding the original source. That’s plagiarism in any other context, but for some reason, laziness perhaps, young people are fine staying away from the far more entertaining worlds of Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr where most of the best content is born.