It’s none too often that I find anything resembling the much-ballyhooed notion of “connection” on Facebook, unless it’s in the form of some rhetorical right hook in an argument with a total stranger. Facebook certainly has a knack for bringing people together (to fight), but that’s hardly the same thing as knowing how to host a party.
Indeed, on the rare occasion when something does go right on Facebook, it typically has more to do with the people stuck on the platform than the ones stationed behind it. And if you’re looking for a good example of Facebook being used for the mutual benefit of its users (as well as a potential multi-hour time waste), stop what you’re doing right now, go to Facebook, click in the search bar, type “a group where we all pretend,” and watch as a world of make-believe opens up before you and beckons you away from the noise of your feed.
What you’re seeing in those search results is something new: not quite a meme, not really a trend, more like a conceptual binding agent that’s allowing far-flung folks across Facebook to function together in harmony — by pretending to be someone else.
Some examples: A Group Where We All Pretend to Be Influencers; A Group Where We Pretend to Be a Cult; A Group Where We All Pretend to Be Customers or Managers; A Group Where We Pretend to Be Ants in an Ant Colony; A Group Where We Are All Robots Pretending to Be Human; A Group Where We Pretend to Be Marianne Williamson (trippy!). And those are just a few I scooped off the top.
Groups Where We All Pretend are not some new phenomenon, but this niche species of Facebook Group has experienced a recent surge in popularity thanks to the runaway-hit status of one particular offshoot (and here I realize I risk offending a whole bunch of you for a few paragraphs, but look, I don’t make the stupid Internet news, I just report it): A Group Where We All Pretend to Be Boomers.
You can credit or blame the ongoing public feud between millennials and baby boomers (which we Gen-Xers just can’t get enough of) for the viral legs demonstrated by A Group Where We All Pretend to Be Boomers, which currently sports more than 200,000 members and has lately experienced about 10,000 posts per day.
The rules for those posts are simple: Post like a boomer — which could mean deploying any number of gently technologically inept affectations that serve as telltale indicators of boomers on phones (again, just reporting here!).
A partial list: odd spacing and errant line breaks, aggressive use of all-caps regardless of tone, overindulgence in Minions memes, inserting tech support questions in the middle of conversations, mistaking status updates for personal chats, posting panicky blocks of public service copypasta warning friends about Facebook stealing your photos, or (my favorite) selecting a festive birthday backdrop festooned with balloons for a post announcing the passing of your spouse.
As Internet comedy goes, it’s remarkably fertile turf. As such, it’s spawned its own lineage of meta-descendants, like A Group Where We Pretend to Be Boomers Pretending to Be Millennials (whoa), and A Group Where We All Pretend to Be Gen-Xers (true to form, only 35 of us showed up).
And while the petty premise of intergenerational sniping provides a wide interpretive berth for participants, the group itself maintains strict rules to maintain the illusion: “If you have a dire need to post ooc [i.e. out of character],” reads the first item in the group’s rules, “contact an admin or moderator, or take it to our linked group where we pretend to be normal.”
This might be what I like most about the Groups Where We All Pretend trend. Yes, they function mostly at the expense of people targeted through hazily defined stereotypes — which is bad. But in order to function, these groups also demand a conscious level of community and a sustained degree of cooperation, a collective willingness to shed the individual self in service of a larger mission (or a more savage zing), and an almost orchestral devotion to the individual imagination. Call it group therapy.
Somewhere behind all of this role-playing (from “inmates and guards” to “doctors and patients” to the slightly unsettling “farmers and cows”) are strangers actually enjoying one another — even if that means pretending to be a screaming opossum (see: “A Group Where We’re All Screaming Opossums”).
In any case, I find myself preferring this new fake Facebook to the real one, a.k.a. A Group Where We Pretend to Be Ourselves.