There’s another side of Facebook that’s not filled with baby photos and engagement announcements. It’s made up of memes, inside jokes and lots of self-referential humor. Some call it Weird Facebook. Others call it Jeffbook.
Why Jeffbook? Because Jeff Conner, a 44-year-old man from Washington state, is one of the main people behind virtually all of the silliest, most popular meme-oriented Facebook pages. He’s considered an architect of the underground network of absurd and ironic groups that has the potential to make Facebook — get this — fun again.
A great many Weird Facebook devotees are obsessed with Conner. They create tribute groups to their “memelord and savior” and post about him constantly. Many Weird Facebook group administrators told me that if I really wanted to learn what makes Weird Facebook tick, I’d have to “talk to Jeff.” So I did.
Conner is an admin and creator of so many Facebook groups that he started one to just keep track of them all. It’s called “How Many Groups Have You Made, Jeff?” He recently tried to count all the groups he’s created, and he got to around 180 before he gave up. He wasn’t even halfway through.
Here are just a few:
The humble origins of Jeffbook
When Conner first joined a bunch of Facebook groups, he realized that he could use his photo-editing skills to his advantage. “I started making personalized, individual memes for people,” he said. “People really like the fact that you take their own words and put it on a picture. … They know you spent time on them.”
Those memes started to get popular, and Conner realized that some of them were appealing out of context. That’s when he started one of his first groups, “You’ve Been Decontextualized, Claim Your Prize.”
Then it started to snowball.
Jeffbook has a unifying philosophy
“The common thread is non-argumentative, non-asshole parts of Facebook,” Conner explained. It’s a place “where you can be yourself, have a good, lighthearted time, not take everything so seriously.” He also described it as “dorkville.”
A lot of the groups he’s made are called “tagging groups,” meaning the purpose of the group is to tag it in response to a comment in another part of Facebook.
Conner created a group called “Thank You, Miss Manners,” for “when you genuinely see someone either displaying excruciatingly correct behavior or, you know, the exact opposite,” according to the page’s description.
You’d just tag that group and it would show up. This kind of meme is everywhere in Weird Facebook — a Bat-Signal for fellow group members.
Jeffbook doesn’t just include the groups Conner has made himself. It’s also the groups that were made about him and in his honor. There seems to be an endless supply of those, too.
How to build your own cult following
Conner isn’t the only Weird Facebook celebrity worth mentioning. I also talked with a guy named Laird Allen, who is building his own cult following on these Facebook groups.
Allen describes himself as “just some guy” who uses Facebook “to get really mad about stuff I can’t control, just like all of us.” While Conner is famous for his creation of Facebook groups, Allen is famous for his commentary. “Laird is eminently quotable and genuinely a super-nice guy,” Conner said.
There are lots of groups dedicated to Allen as well. “One of the groups is Lairdspotting,” Conner said. “Sort of like Dogspotting. They post quotes from Laird that they’re finding everywhere.” “Lairdspotting” has more than 5,000 members.
How does Allen feel about the groups dedicated to him? “It has weird moments, but I don’t mind it too bad,” he said. “If it makes people happy, who am I to judge?”
And that’s what these groups are generally about — making people happy.
“If you haven’t set foot in Facebook groups, they sound like the most immature, juvenile things you can possibly imagine,” Conner said. “Then once you get in them, you realize they are the most immature, juvenile things you can possibly imagine.”
Facebook groups “are the most immature, juvenile things you can possibly imagine.” — Jeff Conner
He compared Facebook groups to modern chatrooms or interest-based clubs. And to be sure, venturing into this space is a lot like going back in time, into the forum-driven, anything-goes social web of the late ’90s or early 2000s, when modern internet culture was in its nascent stages and people were discovering a space where they could indulge their true selves.
“I get to be more of myself in the Facebook groups than I do in most of my life,” Conner said.