Extremely Online

dril

To be extremely online (often capitalized) means to be closely engaged with Internet culture. People said to be extremely online often believe that online posts are very important.

Events and phenomena can themselves be extremely online; while often used as a descriptive term, extreme onlineness has been described as ‘both a reformation of the delivery of ideas – shared through words and videos and memes and GIFs and copypasta – and the ideas themselves.’ It has been said that ”online’ can be thought of as a way of doing things, not the place they are done.’

While the term was in use as early as 2014, it gained use over the latter half of the 2010s. Extremely online people, according to the ‘Daily Dot,’ are interested in topics ‘no normal, healthy person could possibly care about,’ and have been analogized to ‘pop culture fandoms, just without the pop.’ Extremely online phenomena such as fan culture and reaction GIFs have been described as ‘swallowing democracy’ by bloggers such as Amanda Hess in ‘The New York Times’; who claimed that a ‘great convergence between politics and culture, values and aesthetics, citizenship and commercialism’ had become ‘a dominant mode of experiencing politics.’

While computer networks existed in the 1980s, they were largely seen at the time as something whose only formal or culturally significant use was for research and business purposes; entertainment and snark on bulletin board systems was viewed as a small geek subculture at most.

In the 2010s, many categories and labels came into wide use from media outlets to describe Internet-mediated cultural trends, such as the alt-right, the ‘dirtbag left,’ and ‘doomerism.’ These ideological categories are often defined by their close association with online discourse. For example, the term ‘alt-right’ was added to the Associated Press’ stylebook in 2016 to describe the ‘digital presence’ of far-right ideologies, the dirtbag left refers to a group of ‘underemployed and overly online millenials’ who ‘have no time for the pieties of traditional political discourse,’ and the doomer’s ‘blackpilled despair’ is combined with spending ‘too much time on message boards in high school’ to produce an eclectic ‘anti-socialism.’

Extreme onlineness transcends ideological boundaries. For example, right-wing figures like Alex Jones and Laura Loomer have been described as ‘extremely online,’ but so have those on the left like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fans of the ‘Chapo Trap House’ podcast. Extremely online phenomena can range from acts of offline violence (such as the 2019 Christchurch shootings) to ‘[going] on NPR to explain the anti-capitalist irony inherent in kids eating Tide Pods.’

Former United States President Donald Trump has been frequently cited as an example of an extremely online poster, during both his presidency and his 2020 presidential campaign; ‘Vox’ claimed his approach to re-election veered into being ‘Too Online,’ and ‘Reason’ questioned whether the final presidential debate was ‘incomprehensible to normies.’ While individual people are often given the description, being extremely online has also been posited as an overall cultural phenomenon, applying to trends like lifestyle movements suffixed with ‘-wave’ and ‘-core’ based heavily on Internet media, as well as an increasing expectation for digital social researchers to have an ‘online presence’ in order to advance in their careers.

One example of a phenomenon considered to be extremely online is the ‘wife guy’ (a guy who posts about his wife); despite being a ‘stupid online thing’ which spent several years as a piece of Internet slang. Like many extremely online phrases and phenomena, the ‘wife guy’ has been attributed in part to @dril, a pseudonymous Twitter user best known for his idiosyncratic style of absurdist humor and non sequiturs. The Twitter account, written in-character and frequently parodying how people behave on the Internet, has been widely cited as influential on online culture. In one tweet, his character refuses to stop using the Internet, even when someone shouts outside his house that he should log off.

Many of dril’s other coinages have become ubiquitous parts of Internet slang. Throughout the 2010s, posters such as dril inspired commonly used terms like ‘corncobbing’ (referring to someone losing an argument and failing to admit it); while originally a piece of obscure Internet slang used on sites like Twitter, use of the term (and controversy over its misinterpretation) became a subject of reporting from traditional publications, with some noting that keeping up with the rapid turnover of inside jokes, memes, and quotes online required daily attention to avoid embarrassment.

Twitch has been described as ‘talk radio for the extremely online.’ Another example of an event cited as extremely online is ‘No Nut November.’ Increasingly, researchers are expected to have more of an online presence, in order to advance in their careers, as networking and portfolios continue to transition to the digital world.

The 2021 storming of the United States Capitol was described as extremely online, with ‘pro-Trump internet personalities,’ such as Baked Alaska, and fans livestreaming and taking selfies. People who have been described as extremely online include Chrissy Teigen, Jon Ossoff, and Andrew Yang. In contrast, Joe Biden has been cited as the antithesis of extremely online – ‘The New York Times’ once wrote that he had ‘zero meme energy.’

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