car crash near my house,,,3 dead 😂😂😂crying…..pray for them rip
TOM IS DIVORCING ME
Those damn millennial! When I was their age, I was making 0.25$ while piling coal
These are just a few deranged examples of the posts you can find on “A group where we all pretend to be boomers”. The Facebook page, which launched on 12th May, has become an online sensation in recent weeks; attracting viral tweets, media attention, and hundreds of thousands of followers (over 266,000 at the time of writing).
As the name suggests, the premise is simple. You just need to mock the older generations who are beginning to dominate Facebook – specifically those aged between 55 and 70 – by posting exactly the same way they do. Expect Minion memes, right-wing rants, avocado critiques, ads for Tupperware and frenzied complaints about bad customer service. Expect typos, rogue punctuation and blurred photography. Expect serious status updates (“Karen has taken the kids”), mounted on jarringly jolly backgrounds (cakes and rainbows).
But while the Boomer group is easily the biggest of its kind, it’s not alone. Over the last few months, Facebook has become flooded with similar role-playing communities – type the term “pretend to be” in the search bar, and you can quite literally scroll for hours. If you’re not up for being a boomer, you can pretend to be a millennial, a hip “progressive” boomer, or even a boomer pretending to be a millennial. If you wanted to be more particular, you could also try out life as a suburban BBQ dad, an influencer or a Florida Soundcloud rapper.
If you keep on scrolling, the suggestions steadily start to appear increasingly unhinged. For example, in “A group where we all pretend to be farmers and cows”, members just “moo” at each other and share empowering agricultural memes. In “A group where we are all cute & wholesome birds”, they post images of “SMOL” and “pwetty” birds (“birbs”) and compliment each other in cloyingly twee comments (“u r so prit!”, “I lyke your bryght coloures”).
After a while, it stops even feeling like a joke. In “A group where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony”, people just genuinely seem to be looking for ant food tips or warning each other about coming rain. Occasionally there will be a meme, but for the most part everyone’s just having a really good time pretending to be ants (“a shout out to our guards working around the clock, great work protecting the colony”).
Live action roleplaying (LARP) is nothing new, so it makes sense that – as we all move increasingly online – it would eventually make the digital transition with us. But still: is everyone okay? What does the surge of interest in this kind of behaviour say about our collective state of mind?
“It's like Dungeons and Dragons without the math,” assures Lea, 26, who admins seven of these roleplaying pages, including A Group Where We All Pretend To Be Boomers and A Group Where We All Pretend To Be Farmers And Cows. “These groups are a break from this constant feed of drama and negativity that Facebook can be. You can be goofy and cringey and you don’t have to care what anybody thinks about it, because it isn’t even you.”
It’s not always so positive, though. In one group, where you can pretend to be a prison “inmate or guard”, the posts can get pretty glum. Members make mundane trade requests for lotions, ramen noodles and conditioners, while also joking about hunger strikes, murders and stabbings. There are fake therapy sessions (one “jailed” member complains that he won’t see his nephew grow up), and lengthy complaints about blunt kitchen knives.
Another group offers you the chance to “pretend to be a drug addict”, which gets even darker. There, members joke about being abused in the park, consider suicide, and mourn imaginary friends who died from overdoses. The tone of the posts is often bizarrely light, which feels at odds with how intense it all is. (“watched my friend die from heroin yesterday,” writes one member, “yeah i introduced him to dope but i never thought it would get to THAT point!! RIP 😔 (got to have his stash tho))”
It quickly gets uncomfortable, and you can understand why people might find the content insensitive, or like it’s making light of serious issues. But Olivia, 20, works as an admin on the "inmate or guard" group, and brushes off concerns that there is anything to worry about. “People get more in-depth into the roleplaying,” she says. “I think it’s just a way for people to disengage from the real world for a bit.”
Does she ever think the joke can go too far? “We made sure to close the group so stuff wouldn’t immediately make its way to people’s feeds, and we heavily monitor the group to take out most of the extremely offensive stuff,” she says. “We really try to make the group friendly and inoffensive to everyone. We’re really pretty tame in most things, and delete everything we find that’s not relatively tame. Of course, ‘tame’ is relative to every person, so take it with a grain of salt.”
That said, there is still some content that manages to slip through the cracks. According to several admins, it’s getting harder to moderate some of the more inappropriate stuff that gets posted – and the more popular the group gets, the higher the likelihood of it appearing. (“People love to post things we’ve explicitly banned like racism, homophobia, transphobia,” says Helen, 26, who is an admin on Boomers). As a result, many of the groups have been forced to go private or secret to prevent being shut down, or“zucced”.
While the content can be questionable, the general consensus among group members seems to be overwhelmingly positive. Over the last few years, Facebook has become a site for intergenerational rifts, fake news and political infighting – but these closed groups, they say, offer an alternative. You join and express yourself, free from judgment, with other like-minded people. Some of them may be more joke-based, like Boomers, but others are just genuine sites for roleplay; a place to briefly escape the everyday, and take on a new persona.
“I think these groups are a great place to let loose,” adds Lea. “It’s nice to just go and be weird somewhere with people. I think it’s healthy. Go be weird, whether it’s in these groups or out somewhere. Just do it. You’ll feel a lot better afterwards.”
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.