We’re all a bit weird on the internet.
We’re weird when we creep on our classmates on Facebook.
We’re weird when we participate in a forum debate about light armor versus heavy armor in The Elder Scrolls.
We’re weird when we egg someone on to post risqué pictures of themselves on /b/.
Yes, simply being a citizen of the internet entitles you to a certain degree of…deviance.
However, some people exploit this right much more than others.
America has Sarah Palin, TV has Toddlers and Tiaras, Office Space had Milton, and the internet has lolcows, people infamous across the web for pushing the weird line just a little too far. Lolcows are named as such because they provide endless milk in the form of creepy fan fiction, terrible art, temper tantrums, fragile egos, or anything else good for a laugh.
You may already be familiar with some of the biggest lolcows.
For example, Christian Weston Chandler is a household name in just about every circle of the web. Here in Short Circuits, I hope to delve deeper into the fascinating and disturbing world of lolcows in all their forms. I’ll explore some popular and lesser known specimens, and discuss how they relate to internet culture as a whole.
Though some may be offensive, I’m not here to talk trash, just observe and report, albeit humorously.
A big reason lolcows appeal to internet users is their disturbing sense of familiarity: many of us can look at a lolcow and see a reflection, however distorted. However, there is still a definite difference.
Though they come in many different flavors, your garden variety lolcow looks a lot like this:
1. Unwarranted self-importance.
A healthy ego is important for anyone. Worked out? Wear better fitting clothing and show it off. Got a new job or an award? Go ahead, tell all your Facebook friends. The difference between a lolcow and a normal person is knowing when to stop and keep yourself in perspective.
A Kanye-sized ego is sure to get any lolcow in trouble. The kinds of places lolcows typically hang out in – message boards, wikis, and the like – are full of people that know who they are and their “place” in the stratified internet. Artists, fic writers, and fandom devotees see themselves as a part of a community that works together to gain enjoyment from their obsession of choice.
It is natural that in these circles, certain users will be held in higher esteem for their contributions. However, these users have earned it. A lolcow can easily emerge from someone who shoots too high and misses, then pitches a fit about how they shouldn’t have missed. Imagine if the Apollo 13 crew screamed and demanded someone carve their names on the moon, and you can get the idea. Combined with the self-affirming nature of social media, this can be a deadly cocktail.
2. Unsettling personal secrets.
Everyone’s got a skeleton in their closet. Granted, some of us have a mouse skeleton and some of us have a complete t-rex. Thankfully, we keep them where they belong: shut away in the dark. Through a combination of gullibility, social awkwardness, and bad luck, a hallmark of lolcows is that their corpses see the light of day. Oftentimes, they are sexual in nature.
Sexual deviance is a common thread on the internet. Furries, mpreg, vore, scat, inflation…pretty much any fandom from Harry Potter to Homestuck features one or more of these fetishes, sometimes prominently. Though it’s easy to look down on people with these fetishes, they don’t hurt anyone so long as they keep it to themselves. Many of them know that they’re into weird stuff, and will acknowledge this or even be slightly ashamed of it.
Not a lolcow! In the words of Tyrion Lannister, they will wear it like armor. Their fetish can be another way for them to be unique, special, or different. For the rest of us, it’s good for a laugh, a shudder, or a realization that privacy on the internet is dying.
3. An obsessive interest.
Virtually every single person that has ever been a lolcow is really, obsessively, unnaturally, disturbingly into something. Sometimes, this is due to autism, another very frequent trait with lolcows (and one that should be treated with sensitivity.)
However, sometimes it’s just there.
You might like Sonic, or My Little Pony (shame on you!), or cosplaying.
But you don’t roleplay multiple Pokemon Facebook pages, or run into debt buying outfits and memorabilia, or write erotic stories about obscure 90s cartoon characters, or spend your entire life planning a crossover fan fiction film that would never be made.
For a lolcow, their interests often define who they are. They may lack a sense of self and instead live vicariously through what they love. The internet allows this more than ever, with Facebook “likes,” message boards for every available subject, and wikis with enough information to fill hundreds of libraries. A lolcow is only a rabid fan until the internet helps push them over the weird line.
A lolcow cannot take criticism lying down. They have to strike back on YouTube, deviantArt, tumblr, or any other battlefield of choice. Sometimes, lolcows are very diligent in responding to criticisms, leaving no troll unanswered. Their responses are also rarely rational or respectful, often even worse than their tormentors in terms of meanness, logical fallacies, and outright insanity.
Trolling is the major source of lolcow content.
Small groups of users sometimes devote themselves to trolling a single lolcow, being the primary source of new content. Sometimes, these groups are the target of still more trolling, creating an endless cycle of drama and internet feuds that can perpetuate itself indefinitely.
It is debatable whether lolcows enjoy trolling.
No one likes being harassed, but lolcows frequently have persecution complexes and a love of attention that definitely implies they thrive on it. However, in the same way, their followers thrive on their content, creating an interdependent relationship. Of course, tell a lolcow that and they’ll get mad, tell a follower that and they’ll call you stupid.
That about covers it for your basic lolcow anatomy lesson.
Now that you’re prepared, you can begin your wonderful and uncomfortable journey into their world.
But be warned: it’s going to get very, very weird from here.