If people truly love anything, it’s themselves. Specifically, talking about themselves and how they have it worse than everyone else.
Enter FMyLife.com, a relatively recent website geared at letting anyone do exactly that – share their misfortunes with the world. FMyLife, or FML, is an increasingly popular online trend of self-deprecation. And as the hordes of fans that view the site over a million times daily suggest, it’s incredibly funny.
Topics generally revolve around sex, relationships, bodily functions and other forms of misfortune or embarrassment. Each submission is short written anonymously (an optional nickname field is provided), begins with “Today” and ends with the site’s ubiquitous, catch-all title.
“The motivation behind sending in a story should be to make people laugh with an amusing anecdote about something embarrassing that happened to them,” FML moderator, customer care and press relations representative Alan Holding said in an e-mail said. “It’s not the place to come and moan and whine about banal things, but [to] share your crappy day in an amusing way.“
Users can also choose to help moderate incoming submissions, in order to weed out obviously fake submissions or stories with poor grammar and spelling errors. One of the few guiding principles reminds volunteer moderators that “a good FML should be authentic, well written and make you laugh without being too shocking.“
After each story, users can express their opinions by voting for either the sympathetic choice of “I agree, your life is f***ed” or the thumbs-down “you deserved that one.” Registered users can also comment on each submission.
Created by Maxime Valette, Guillaume Passaglia and Didier Guedj, the website began in Jan. 2008 as viedemerde.fr, a French online network that loosely translates to “shitty life.” The site’s user base expanded to a larger community, reportedly reaching 200,000 visitors in May.
Plans for an English version of the website began to unfold in October 2008, and early names like “TodayShitHappens.com” and “WhataFAIL.com” were considered. Hits finally began to increase after the creators bought the FMyLife.com domain. According to website traffic analysis Alexa.com, FmyLife.com dramatically jumped from a near-nothing ranking in Jan. 2009 to nearly the top 1000 in February. Today, FML reportedly receives over one million hits per day – exceeding the original French version’s daily visitors.
FML is expanding beyond the site. The phrase itself is a growing fad of self-deprecation, popping up in Facebook news feeds and in UC Davis Bookstore cashier lines. The site’s creators are currently planning a book release with hand-selected FMLs to be published by Random House Publishing Group.
And like most other popular social sites, the FML website frequently changes to add new features. The creators plan to add an integrated messaging system to each registered account, and anyone with an iPhone can currently laugh at others‘ misfortunes on the go.
Holding said that FML’s growing popularity simply owes itself to “the fact that people get a kick out of laughing at some of the stories posted on the site.“
“Through the auto moderation system, the users can also contribute to the direction the site can go in,” Holding said. “It’s becoming a real community.“
“I [go if I’m] bored, or if I don’t have homework and I don’t have anything to do on Facebook,” said Noelle Phillips, an undeclared first-year student. “I like to laugh.“
Jesse Drew, the acting director of the technocultural studies department, said that the site lacks the creativity and depth needed to endure in the long-term – an essential feature of today’s popular and successful social networking sites.
“For every Facebook and for every Twitter, there’s 10,000 other sites designed for attention and popularity,” Drew said. “So many people are creating sites like that, [each] hoping to be the next hit.“
Drew also drew a parallel between FML and the website sorryeverybody.com, a submission-based website created in response to former president George W. Bush’s victory in the 2004 election. Users posted pictures of themselves holding various hand-drawn apologies to the rest of the world. The website quickly drew huge popularity after its creation, but later saw a significant decline in views after the website creator published a book of compiled submissions.
“I can see something like [FML] simply being an application within Facebook, for example,” Drew said. “It’s quirky, it’s funny, it might have some spur in popularity, but I don’t see any sort of longevity for the site. Everyone’s trying to grab the next big thing.“
Phillips noticed a downward trend in the quality of each story. When asked if she would buy the FML book when released, Phillips said she probably would not.
“I’d probably read it online,” Phillips said. “I might buy it as like a joke gift for my roommate.“
JUSTIN T. HO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.