Internet culture is alive and real and moving and sometimes it scares me. But if I’m honest, I spend most of the time that I’m breathing on Twitter. I’ll never apologize. It’s part of me now. I sit down, fish my slightly-broken iPhone out of my pocket and get lost in the depths of Weird Twitter, basking in the never-ending bad memes that somehow leave a gross taste in my mouth and refresh me simultaneously.
And honestly, it’s something that really does energize me. It gives me hope. There’s a “Wholesome Humor” movement recently online that’s working to combat the stench of politics that’s taken over the left and right sides of Twitter. People are creating their own little corners of social media that provide hope and laughter to thousands who log in looking for more than the latest think-piece on healthcare.
One of my favorite Twitter accounts is @jonnysun, authored by Jonny Sun. He’s appeared in NPR, BuzzFeed, Playboy, GQ and McSweeney’s. He’s worn many different hats, working as an architect, designer, engineer, artist, playwright and comedy writer (duh, he’s funny on Twitter). Currently, he’s a doctoral student at MIT and a Berkman Klein Fellow at Harvard—where he studies humor and online place. And almost most excitingly, his book, “Everyone’s A Aliebn When Ur A Aliebn Too” comes out this June. I’ve preordered it because I’m impulsive and I make great decisions on the regular.
So my guy Jonny has launched an Online Humor Conversation Series at MIT, bringing comedians from all over the internet together to chat with academics and researchers and discuss humor’s impact and influence on the internet, society and culture. It’s being funded by the MIT De Florez Fund for Humor, in association with the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media, and co-sponsored by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.
Each conversation is live-streamed just in case you can’t make it out there, and it’s strangely enlightening as they delve into what makes the internet so funny. Although they’ve started the series already (and they’re 3 or 4 sessions deep), I enjoyed the kick-off. @jomnysun was joined by @dog_rates, a guy named Matt Nelson who figured out the math behind success on the internet: dogs and jokes.
Focusing on funny captions in conjunction with adorable dog pictures, @dog_rates now has over 1.7 million followers on Twitter, a shop for t-shirts and hats, a new app (@GoodDogsGame) AND and a book headed our way in October. He studies Professional Golf Management (weird, right? Not what I expected.) when he’s not rating dogs.
Nelson and Jonny Sun sat down and discussed the process behind creating online content, the idea behind Twitter’s “Wholesome Humor” movement, the universal appeal of dogs (well, duh), the legitimacy of creative work on the internet, humor’s role in political discourse and ways for creators to counter negative speech online.