Editor at Large
As an online forum for the Egyptian community to post pictures and comics about real-life occurrences and current events, Egypt’s Sarcasm Society (ESS) has grown increasingly popular over the years in spreading Egyptian humor.
Using pictorial memes to demonstrate a point and portray local gags, members of ESS are using the internet to poke fun at the current political and social scene in Egypt.
ESS started in February 2009 as a Facebook group, which eventually grew so popular it became a Facebook page a few months later.
“Before ESS, I used to post albums on my profile with funny and sarcastic pictures that I came across the internet from various sources. These pictures attracted certain people from my friends whose mentality and sense of humor were close to mine. I decided to make a Facebook group to gather this kind of people together and try and reach more of the same kind,” comments Kareem Samy, the founder of ESS, on the origins of the page. Samy, known as Icy by the ESS community, is a sixth year medical student at Ain Shams University.
The group, which had a total of 9,693 members before making the move to the page, which has over 54,000 members, consisted of posting things found elsewhere on the internet. However, it has developed to include original comics made by members.
“We live in a world where entertainment is one of the most important aspects of everyone’s life. We crave entertainment and good laughs,” Samy tells The Independent.
Creating original comics on the group is a recent trend among members who previously posted other photos they found on the internet.
“Since that ESS has got over 10k posts, it became hard to post something taken from another site that has not been posted before. This encouraged people to make original content. Now it’s fair to say that most of the content posted on ESS is original,” says Samy about the community’s creativity.
Mona Faris, a business administration senior who was a member of the group from the beginning, praises the group and what it has managed to achieve.
“Before it was more about Egyptian culture. Now, it started to get more diversified,” she says.
“What’s appealing is that the comics are very interesting and they make me laugh or even smile but what’s unappealing is probably the curse words that are used and some of the lame posts,” states Faris who frequents ESS whenever she’s bored or studying.
Mostafa Rizk, a computer science sophomore, explains that ESS’s social context makes it easily relatable.
“Most of the people who post on the page are westernized Egyptians in their late teen/early-adult years, so they generally post about things I experience,” Rizk explains.
However, not all people like what ESS has developed into.
“At first it was funny and interesting and it used to bring a diverse sense of humor to Egyptians, and served as a bridge between Western internet culture and Arab internet culture, but then I think they went into the wrong direction,” says Yahia Hashem, a CMA junior.
“Their jokes are not representative of people anymore. They’re not funny and some of them are offensive as well. I think (that means) they are not thinking about the culture as much anymore. We are a conservative culture after all,” adds Hashem, who has limited viewing ESS to once or twice per month.
The effect of ESS and the memes used have had an effect on members outside of the cyber world.
“When I’m around friends I know are familiar with memes, I might drop a reference or two. Sometimes I catch myself thinking in memes but it kind of bothers me that it happens,” states Rizk.
Faris has also integrated memes into her language: “It’s funny that you can express how you feel by using memes.”
“I do believe ESS is a culture. The word culture is defined as ‘a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group’ and whatever happens on ESS fits this criteria,” states Samy.
“Culture is mixing and intercommunicating. It is not static or frozen; it’s dynamic and it’s always changing,” explains James Curiel, assistant professor of sociology at AUC.
However Samy states, “The formation of this culture followed the basic pattern of any real life culture development. It first started through the attraction of those who share the same attitudes. Later on, it developed into a virtual society that, like any real life society, accepts those who are similar and rejects those that aren’t. As this virtual society grew larger and reached a wider target of audience, it became influential as more people tried to become a part of it and fit in.”
Curiel comments on the use of internet memes saying, “It’s like any other tool. It can be manipulated, abused, or democratic according to how people use it and what their intent is.”
Recently, many of ESS’s posts relate to Egypt’s current affairs and are based on political or social satire.
“ESS helps raise the awareness about different situations by providing a medium for people to share their opinions about what they see and come across. People are motivated to make original comics the most when there’s a real life situation happening which delivers a point of view towards whatever happening to the rest of the members,” Samy explains.
He concludes, “I don’t think there are people who rely solely on ESS as their source of news but I for one knew about many things, of varying importance, which were happening worldwide through the comics which were made about them on ESS.”