Internet Terror Cell Neutralized

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that social media sapped all the vitality out of the big internet forums, which used to be the internet’s most productive creative engines. But it feels like maybe 2010 was the year that the death spiral started—when it became clear that the people who were moving on were not coming back. Twitter and Facebook and Reddit and Tumblr and probably a bunch of apps I’ve never heard of are where the obsessive young internet people go to play now, for better or for worse.

Before there was Reddit, there was Something Awful and its forums; before 4chan’s notorious /b/ forum, there was FYAD. FYAD (Fuck You And Die) was a proudly inscrutable Something Awful subforum dedicated to terrorizing the site’s more accessible communities, as well as the internet at large. As of today, FYAD is dead: removed from the site’s forum listings and deleted except for this best-of collection.

The long-defunct Encyclopedia Dramatica, which shared NOT A LITTLE of its sensibility with FYAD, still hosts a surprisingly helpful description of the site. The first half is an old FYAD in-joke:

FYAD is the cool place to hang out when compared to your parent’s basement. You can find most of the cool people there. In FYAD you can just chill and do whatever and totally relax. “Take it easy” is the FYAD motto, for example, that’s how laid back it is there. Show up if you want to have a good time.

It is however very hard to post in FYAD as most of the time you would be told to get out or accused of being a Re-Reg if you just registered. however, you need to be accepted to post in FYAD so it is basically the cool kids club. Look at FYAD this way, it is that group of cools guys at your school all walking around joking having a good time, FYAD are those cool guys, and you’re not one of them.

If you weren’t aware of FYAD, it was mostly invisible, nested within a paid forum and presented in the most chaotic way possible; if you were, you saw evidence of its influence wherever you looked online. (This is how the internet looks from ANY online community—like a giant ripoff—but Something Awful was large enough that it may have been true. I’ll even give it credit for the manic, eye-rolly, stream-of-consciousness tone that came to define Tumblr.)

Something Awful, which is based in a strip mall in Missouri, has stubbornly aligned itself against mainstream success for 15 years. FYAD was the ultimate expression of this ethos: It was insular and cruel, a cluster of arch young men, only about half of whom were joking about their misanthropy and homophobia and sexism. Unlike 4chan, its successor, it was concerned with identity and reputation; its hazing and bullying were directed inward as often as outward. We call all of these things trolling now, which is suffocating: Some of this stuff was knowing and clever, some of it was hateful. FYAD was a place where mental illness could flourish alongside performative irony without the slightest hint of a difference.

FYAD posts were short, image-heavy, and leaned heavily on context. The forum front page was a pink, broken cascade that was intentionally hard to follow, populated by users with tens of thousands of posts in their histories. So what happened over the next few years shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

A former FYAD poster explains:

It was just layer upon layer of irony. Yeah, a lot of people on Twitter got their voices in FYAD but FYAD isn’t like Twitter at all. It’s basically just all inside jokes that you could only get if you were around for a long time or have way too much time on your hands. Slowly everyone funny moved onto Twitter and I dont think anyone really posts in FYAD anymore.

Today, exiled FYAD users are joking about “transcending” to Twitter. Poster ann frank fanfic wrote today: “guess its time to see yall on twitter! finally! twitter won!”

There are rumors about the reason for the shutdown (a lawsuit, possibly! but probably something much less interesting), and the site’s operators haven’t said much. For now, at least, its remaining users will have to move to another forum, as many already have—FYAD’s old URL redirects to a new section, where hundreds of users are trying to figure out what happened, and where they may just stay and rebuild and pretend as if nothing happened in the first place. Or it might reappear! Maybe it was all just another joke. But it won’t matter: ex-posters on Twitter have laid their old forum to rest in an impromptu memorial. Their FYAD has been dead for years.