A couple of entries ago we saw the paroxysm of angst and outrage the British Twitterati can twist itself it into when it lets itself get trolled by an annoying female, but that’s nothing compared to what happened when meme-loving, hack-happy types most often found on 4chan got trolled by a similarly annoying – if a lot less objectionable – female. Though in this case, it is hard to know who’s trollin’ who.
In January 2008 a teenage girl uploaded some videos to YouTube under the name boxxybabee and shared them with her internet friends on anime themed social network Gaia Online. In the videos the heavily eyelinered tween rambled excitably about nothing much at all in a strange voice and with some rather distracting ticks. The overall experience is rather hard to endure.
So far, so unremarkable; there are tonnes of annoying tweens making vidoes out there in the wilds of the internet. At some point though her videos found their way onto anonymous image sharing board 4chan. For reasons lost to history, users split themselves into pro and anti-boxxy factions and proceeded to tear into each other and attempt to destroy half the internet. 4chan was taken down by denial of service attack, attempts were made to make Boxxy trend on Twitter and most disturbingly the boxxy account was hacked as users attempted to find the “truth” behind her identity.
Instead of backing away from the madness Catie Wayne – the teen behind the Boxxy videos – chose to ride the wave. She created more YouTube videos under her own and as Boxxy and other “characters”, adopted a catchphrase of “You’s trollin’” and generally helped to keep the insanity lasting a little longer. Now 21, she has a website – complete with its own online store – in her real name whilst the current Boxxy channel YouTube has over 300,000 subscribers and each of her videos has between half a million and four millions views. This is the kind of reach social media agencies and brands pay big bucks for, but it was achieved seemingly accidentally.
You could probably write a few hundred doctorate theses on Boxxy: constructions of femininity in digital spaces, meme theory, communication in a postmodern paradigm for starters or dismiss it all as hysterical adolescent nonsense – a symptom of slow cultural suicide. It seems anyone who attempts to engage with Boxxy was trolling or being trolled – sometimes both. The fact Boxxy wasn’t “real” is almost incidental: in its cycle of ever escalating mass outrage taking place in an entirely online space the whole affair has set the tone for social media in the 21st century. The internet: it’s a whole other planet.
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