As the decade draws to a close, our writer Paul Dawson discusses the rise and fall of creepypasta alongside the growing social-media movement when it comes to our worldwide political instability.
During the early years of the 2010s, a virtual craze began to gain rapid traction, and over a short spell of two years became a cornerstone of internet culture. This craze, of course, was creepypasta.
For those unaware, a creepypasta is an online horror tale which usually explores the more supernatural elements of horror. These stories are often written in both first and third person, with some notable tales ranging from the lurking Slenderman to the terrifying Jeff the Killer. Intriguingly, creepypasta lacks an agreeable origin, which only serves to intensify the allure associated with them. However, creepypasta could arguably be traced all the way back to the early 90s with detailed stories similar to their modern interpretation being found in internet forums as well as chat rooms - though there has never been extensive proof to confirm this theory.
As we can see, creepypastas are an intriguing form of storytelling. Their intense details of gory and disgusting events have, in fact, interesting similarities to traditional mythology - or, for a slightly more modern example, the stories of the Brothers Grimm. The case for this comparison comes in the form of these stories having an underlying message of caution. Resemblances between these storytelling forms are striking, more so than just the factor of the hidden messages within their narratives.
Both the Brothers Grimm and old school mythology had a large boom period which saw their stories become interwoven into mainstream consciousness. Many creepypasta saw similar success, with a prime example being the previously mentioned Slenderman. This particular creepypasta saw both a widely successful video game and feature film made, capitalizing on the want for the mythology of this character to be explored further.
Despite the clear success and modern exposure that creepypasta has had, the term is now not commonly used and many would struggle to tell you exactly what a creepypasta is. The most likely reason for this is that most internet-dwellers simply became bored of these stories as they became repetitive in nature, or found a new source for the creepy content that they desired.
However, I feel like the departure of creepypasta within mainstream media is due to a much more psychological reason. As previously mentioned, creepypasta is composed of stories which follow a cautionary tale or a lesson based narrative. In theory, as time passes, lessons change along with culture - so these stories fade into irrelevance, much like mythology and the Brothers Grimm. The messages of these tales became outdated and no longer concurred with the modern issues of the time period, thus became unrelatable to readers. This is why creepypasta is much less important within the modern day.
In the early 2010s, the world was in a state of social change, despite being seemingly politically secure. People began to speak out on prominent issues, meaning that they didn’t have to use a platform of anonymous stories to expose their problems. Previously, many creepypasta had dealt with the fear of the unknown as well as issues such as identity. These ideas weren’t prominently spoken about within public as they were still seen as risque and questionable, but through this medium these themes could be addressed without public harassment. However, as the sheer amount of people speaking out on issues such as identity began to rise, in particular with the LGBTQ+ community, the relevance of creepypasta decreased.
An important factor of this are sites such as Tumblr, Reddit (specifically the /r/nosleep subreddit) and creepypasta.com. All of these webpages were extremely valuable for those who lacked the confidence to speak out on key issues, and were once all key players in the spread of creepypasta stories. None of these sites now have quite the pull they once had.
Personally, I relate this to people being much more comfortable with discussing important issues online. This left creepypasta useless, as people were no longer hiding their issues within creative narratives. People are also more politically involved. During the early 2010s, there was a general feeling of political security, but now we find ourselves within a horrendous period for modern politics - people do not have to look far for horror tales when most are told every evening on the 7 o’clock news.
The time period during which creepypasta rose to fame was one of social media silence. Now, we live in a generation where those stories are no longer needed. Though they may be revisited in the future with fond nostalgia, they are now a relic of a recent past which most have forgotten.