In Internet culture, shitposting is posting "aggressively, ironically, and of trollishly poor quality" posts or content to an online forum or social media. Shitposts are intentionally designed to derail discussions or cause the biggest reaction with the least effort. Sometimes they are made as part of a coordinated flame war to make the site unusable by its regular visitors.
Shitposting is a modern form of provocation on the internet (the term itself appeared around the mid-2000s on image boards such as 4chan), but the concept is not new. Early 20th-century art movements such as Dadaism or Surrealism created art that was intentionally low-quality or offensive to provoke the art world.
Writing in Polygon, Sam Greszes compared shitposting to Dadaism's "confusing, context-free pieces that, specifically because they were so absurd, were seen as revolutionary works both artistically and politically". Greszes writes that the goal of shitposting is "to make an audience so confused at the lack of content that they laugh or smile".
Shitposting is often misunderstood in popular culture; journalist Jessica Lindsay qualified it with an actual definition:
Shitposting is nothing of value. It is the online equivalent of shooting tin cans with a spud gun in a patch of wasteland. It's repeating what the person you're with says in a stupid voice until they give up and go home. The idea that shitposting is some media trick that's been harnessed by the Tory party with their Comic Sans posters defeats entirely the point of the act; to be stupid with no inherent goal (or at least not a serious one).
Professor Greg Barton, an expert on terrorism at Deakin University, said racist "shitposting" is common across the internet, and is a way for people to connect and gain attention. "The thing about social media is that it's social. You want some feedback, you want people to like your stuff whether it's Instagram or Facebook", he said. "Shitposting is all about getting your profile up, getting a response and the more ironic and funny you can be the more you get."
The political uses of shitposting came to prominence during the 2016 United States presidential election. In May of that year, The Daily Dot wrote that a shitpost is "a deliberate provocation designed for maximum impact with minimum effort".
In September 2016 the pro-Trump group Nimble America received widespread media attention. The Daily Beast described the group as "dedicated to 'shitposting' and circulating internet memes maligning Hillary Clinton".
In September 2016, The Independent wrote that shitposting is an apolitical "tool that can be put to a variety of effects". But posts such as these appeared long before the 2016 US presidential election. Engineering & Technology magazine wrote that "shitposting, whether from the left or right, is perilously close to delivering an online metastasis of Orwell's Two-minute Hate [sic]".
In November 2016, Esquire magazine wrote, "internet mockery is emerging as a legitimate political technique: shitposting. Maybe the 2020 election will be all shitposting."
In March 2018, talking about Facebook group New Urbanist Shitposting or New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens, Chicago magazine defined it as "posts that are meant to be awkward and irrelevant, aggravating and distracting social media communities from discussing their topic at hand".
In 2019, the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg incorrectly described shitposting as "political parties or campaign groups make an advert that looks really rubbish and people share it online saying, 'Oh I can't believe how shit this is' then it gets shared and shared and shared and shared and they go, 'Ha ha ha, job done.'" The Financial Times said the correct description of shitposting was "posting ostentatiously inane and contextless content to an online forum or social network with the effect of derailing discussion". It gave the example of Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson's being forced to deny she had killed squirrels for fun after online trolls made up a story about her having done so.
... but that doesn't quite speak to the essence of 'shitposting', which encompasses content of aggressively, ironically, and of trollishly poor quality. Incoherent jokes, hasty Photoshopping, mashups, irrelevance, errors in spelling or grammar—all are hallmarks of the shitpost ...
On alt-right forums, hate speech is passed off as "shitposting"—purposeful offensiveness meant to shock and provoke, a counterweight to calls for safe spaces and trigger warnings.
I also think I subconsciously associate endless scroll with low-quality / spammy content, memes, shitposting, etc, which appeals to me.
But remember that the shitpost isn't an expression of power rather it is the derailment of discourse.
'Shitposting' according to the Open Oxford administrators Ash MQ & co involves 'a small coterie of members posting in-jokes, diary entries, and pictures of excrement' which meant that 'discussions were derailed, serious threads became lost amongst the nonsense, and most of the group's over 4000 members were put off ever getting involved.'
... shitposting means good posts with bad behavior. It has roots in older communities like Something Awful and 4chan, which celebrates the shitpost like no other. The shitpost is a troll, a deliberate provocation designed for maximum impact with minimum effort. It's bad. It's good.
Shitposting in itself doesn't appear to have much of a politics, instead being a tool that can be put to a variety of effects—being used from everyone from the far-right such as Trump fans to left-wing groups online like those meant to support Bernie Sanders.