I’ve lol’d at more than my share of meme factories and Twitter comedians, and even written about a few along the way. Until recently, however, I’d never been mooned for my efforts. I’m happy to report that that changed when I set out to analyze Da Share Z0ne.
As its name suggests, Da Share Z0ne—available on both Twitter and Facebook—offers up a seemingly endless stream of goofy meme-ified images, all of them theoretically shareable, but only if you want your friends to think you’re a lunatic. Scroll rapidly through its steadily accumulating feed, and you’ll soon get a sense of its general style. Most of the images it uses feature the same borderline comical gothic aesthetic: Scythe-wielding grim reapers flip off the viewer while animated skeletons shred on flaming guitars.
While this mock-fascination with fatalist cool anchors the account’s aesthetic, the text running over the images dials in its silly tone. Inscribed in an array of tacky fonts, these messages operate in winkingly awkward contradistinction to the pictures. Though they sometimes open with tough-guy badassery, the phrases that Da Share Z0ne imprints over its images almost always undercut themselves by the end. One such post depicts a skeleton levitating over an endless field of lava. The text begins, “Get on my level,” only to conclude, “hurry up its lonely out here.” Plenty of other images simply rely on the contrast between image and text, like a picture of motorcycle jacket–clad skeleton standing in the rain that reads “Sunday is almost Monday.” Another features a bullet-toothed skull in a cowboy hat chomping menacingly on a pipe, only to inquire, “Beggin your pardon, but could you point me to the nearest restroom.”
Key among Da Share Z0ne’s mysteries may be where its anonymous creator finds the steady supply of skeletal art that it incorporates into its images. The account occasionally reuses an image, but its repertoire of (mostly skeletal) art is formidable. When it does repeat an image, it’s mostly to deliberately jokey effect, as when it posted a celebration of its millionth post (“we fuckin did it”), before almost immediately follow that up with a clumsily corrected version acknowledging that it was only 655 posts in (“thats still a lot”).
As is often the case with weird internet output, Da Share Z0ne employs deliberate ineptitude to comic effect. “I made some typos?” a skeleton behind the wheel of a luxury car in one recent post asks. “Lets see you zone anf drive.” It’s not just spelling “errors” and absent apostrophes, though: The fonts that the account uses also contributes, especially when it tries out multiple styles in a single post. In that “Get on my level” image, for example, the initial phrase appears in a faux-futuristic script, while the latter shows up in yellowish gothic characters. Switching between the two does double duty, at once nodding to the poseurish wannabe attitude of the account and providing a visual indication that the punchline has arrived.
As the Daily Dot’s Jay Hathaway observes, “The beauty of Da Share Z0ne lies in its universal appeal. Its humor crosses cliquish social boundaries.” In that, it stands apart from much of Weird Twitter, a comic subculture that relies heavily on entangled webs of in-jokes. Da Share Z0ne speaks to a broader audience because it’s not just poking fun at wannabe cool kids. Ultimately, it’s gently making light of the way we all present ourselves on social media—of the way we attempt to show off the best, brightest versions of our lives, only to accidentally reveal just how lame we really are.
There is, however, one area in which Da Share Z0ne remains stridently remain too cool for school, and that’s in its relationship to the press. When I reached out on Facebook in late June to request an interview, the read receipt indicated that someone had seen my message almost immediately, but no one wrote back for more than 12 hours. When someone finally replied, he or she simply sent a photograph of what appeared to be a hairy, naked butt. (Attempting a reverse image search turned up no other versions of the picture, which suggests that this really is the butt of someone connected to Da Share Z0ne.) I’m probably not alone in this experience: As Hathaway notes, Da Share Z0ne has repeatedly mocked attempts to write articles about it, with at least one of those posts going up right around the time when I sent in my own request for comment.
It’s hard to be too put off by such ribbing, in part because it’s in keeping with everything that makes Da Share Z0ne so much fun. Eager as I’ve been to share Da Share Z0ne with the world, I have to admit that finally doing so leaves me feeling profoundly uncool. Some of that’s structural (for example, Slate copy conventions oblige me to set its name in uppercase letters, even though the account itself favors an all-lowercase spelling), but mostly it just feels really dweeby to explain the greatness of something this self-evidently awesome. Fortunately, I suspect Da Share Z0ne itself has my back, however much its creators might mock me. After all, what do we learn from Da Share Z0ne if not that there’s nothing cooler than being uncool when you’re trying to be rad?