This study examines the use of online humour in a subversive local community Facebook group set up in 2017 by disgruntled members banned from a similar group “in opposition to [the original group’s] arbitrarily-applied rules, [its] enforced happiness, and [its] suppression of any post that isn’t about giving away lemons or asking to borrow small appliances”. The dissatisfaction with the guidelines and the administration of the original Facebook group provides rich material for humorous posts in the new group, many with varying degrees of aggression directed at the founder and certain members of the “Dark Side”, as the original group is frequently referred to.
This article will demonstrate how the use of humour in this new rival Facebook group is used for the purposes of inclusion and exclusion, and how it contributes to a sense of belonging in this online community of practice (Lave & Wenger 1991) created by a small group of self-declared dissidents. It will be shown how the humour shapes the identity of the group through the members’ shared ideologies and beliefs (Tanskanen 2018), and how the humorous messages intended to denigrate and belittle the “Dark Side” reinforce unity among the group members, since the feeling of superiority over those being ridiculed coexists with a feeling of belonging (Billig 2005).
Fifteen single comments or multi-post threads were chosen for analysis. These appeared during the first twenty months of this rival group’s existence, and included primarily affiliative and/or aggressive humour (Meyer 2015) directed at the original group. The analysis was carried out using elements of computer-mediated discourse analysis (Herring 2004), and an insider participant-observer online ethnographic approach. The examples chosen illustrate how the humour is used to unite the members of this subversive group by dividing them from the original one, to create the joking culture (Fine and de Soucey 2005) of the new group, and in so doing, creates and sustains the members’ shared identity as irreverent breakaway troublemakers.
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