“I am tired of bringing food to the Queen to justify my existence,” a poster writes. “When does it end? When can I have some of the food I bring home? When will I see the value of my labor?”
“You goddamn traitor,” reads the top comment. “BITE,” writes another user. “BITE BITE BITE,” writes another.
“Someone just peed on my whole family,” says another post. “Rest in pees,” commiserates a commenter.
“Just found out my homie got crushed by human today RIP bro,” another poster says. Then: 25 replies, all variations of “F.”
Welcome to “A group where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony,” a Facebook group with over 135,000 members who are, well, pretending to be ants in an ant colony. It’s been around since June of last year.
The group is one of a large, interconnected network of semi-satirical, semi-reverent Facebook groups centered on loud and fervent pretending. One of the largest is “We Pretend It’s 2007-2012 Internet,” a haven for Club Penguin references, troll faces, and long-forgotten meme formats. There are its offshoots, “We Pretend It’s 1453 Internet” (“Oh, today’s youth, always dying of the plague,” reads a recent post) and “We Pretend It’s 1897 Internet” (“Ladies, lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours!”). There’s “A group where we all pretend to be boomers,” “A GROUP WHERE WE ALL PRETEND TO BE DRAMATIC TUMBLR USERS” and “A group where we all pretend to work in the same office” (“Who the fuck stole my stapler?”).
But there’s something special about the ant colony group. Yes, jokes and memes are exchanged. But there’s a unique earnestness to the interactions; it feels like a world. A user confesses that he’s in love with the Queen, and 120 commenters urge him to set aside his dalliance, remember his purpose, and get back to work. A member announces that a larva is missing; commenters split into search parties, some volunteer information, others ask for updates, and the larva is eventually found. It’s silly, but I’ll admit: I breathed a sigh of relief.
I am a lurker in the ant colony group. I post the occasional comment, often a variant of “BITE.” But mostly, I sit back and watch it unfold. The scene is a fascinating and profoundly odd exercise in empathy.
I don’t need to tell you that we’re living in stressful times, and while we’re all experiencing them together, their impacts on us, and the particular patchwork of ways they’ve upended each of our lives — our workplaces, our families, our own health — are unique to each of us. We’re experiencing a shared crisis alone.
Different things help different people stay sane. For me, the ant colony group is a reminder of the bigger things — bigger worlds, longer times — that surround the tragic and terrifying microcosm we’re currently in. I think about the ant hills on my lawn. I think of an ant, feet under the ground, standing before a crowd of fellow insects, somberly announcing “Death water came from the sky today. Many good workers lost. Press F.” I think of another ant, huddled with a group off to the side, asking in a hushed voice, “Alright, what’s our stance on allying with the red ants? Yea or nay?”
I know that’s not what’s happening, obviously. But in whatever non-English medium ants and anteaters and termites and fruit flies and everything else use to communicate, there are things going on out there. Things are happening, constantly, that are far beyond my understanding. The ants are marching on. It’s probably silly that that helps me get through each day, but it does all the same.