The Internet is a strange, odd, whacked-out place. Yes, there are some crazy people out there, and many of them have found the web to be a powerful outlet for their craziness.
Once upon a time, these slices of weird may have remained hidden in bedrooms and basements and never have come to the attention the wider world. But now thanks to the magic of the Internet, these unique visions of reality are on full display for all the world to enjoy and ponder.
The Web is filled with any number of purposefully"weird" feline-themed memes and irony-drenched Tumblrs. Here, we investigate some of the web's weirdest weirdness, created by people who seem unaware of how truly weird it is.
Duvamis.com: Social cray cray
You can find any number of "strange" social media networks out there. They may be tongue-in-cheek venues for mustache aficionados, or virtual clubhouses for those who have a strong interest in knitting. But for just straight up curious, the winner has to be Duvamis, a still-in-Beta social network with big ideas. Big weird ideas.
Duvamis has big aims to foster expression of the true self through anonymity and privacy. Communication privacy is an expanding niche, particularly in the wake of the NSA Prism leak. And that's all well and good, however Duvamis seems to have built its site around an uber-earnest existential philosophy of anonymity, as you'll see in this slickly-produced video:
Aside from its goals of encouraging the true self, the site has decided to turn the accepted grammar of social networks on its head. Duvamis has replaced social network conventions and nomenclature with a new system so detailed (and flat-out strange) that necessitates an explainer video just to use it.
For example, users are prompted to create anonymous online personalities known as "virtual visions" (each profile can have numrous visions) along with a title that describes "the story of their vision." The UI of the site is separated into two halves: on the left is the "fountain" where one posts content, while on the right is the "arena" where you will find the content of others. It's a completely unnecessary reinvention of Facebook's far more intuitive content stream.
However, one of the strangest items lies in the top left corner the site where a clock keeps track of how long you have been on the site in a coded known as "Duvamis time." Duvamis time transcends time zones and, as described on the site, is [sic] "based on the philosophical idea that the time one has truly lived equals the time one has been free." Huh?
Adding to the mystery, the site reveals precious little about the team behind Duvamis, either does an official PR release. One blogger dug into the site's history and found that it is based in Sofia, Bulgaria and has some major funding behind it. When we reached out to the company through their official Facebook page, we were able to get in touch with the organization's vice president, Peter Gechy, who told us via email that "the project is a result of three years of hard scientific research in the field of human psychology, philosophy and behaviour, as well as the development of IT technologies and modern media."
To be fair, a site like Twitter also seemed incomprehensible and weird when it first came to my attention, so perhaps the Duvamis team is just way ahead of the curve on this one. Or this is just some weird project that will change dramatically or fade away.
Rael.org: Some of that new time UFO religion
Religion is built on myths about forces beyond our control. So, it stands to reason that any new religions would include one of the great mysteries of the modern space age: extraterrestrials. Several relatively new religions such as The Nation of Islam or Scientology have incorporated UFOs in their mythology. However, few movements have taken their ET infatuation as far as the Raelians. And they're willing to preach their message out there loud and proud via rael.org.
The messianic Rael movement is a sex-positive religion based on the teachings of a former French racing publisher (Rael) who had a chance encounter with "a human being from another planet." The website features more about this intergalactic encounter in this video featuring a wife-beater clad Rael:
The Raelians' slick website provides all the basic tenants of the group's intergalactic message about the originis of our species (we're aliens). But you will also find a professional looking news blog and schedule of upcoming seminars from around the world.
In regards to how the organization uses digital media, a Raeloan representative told me via email "The Raelian Movement nowadays has 85,000 members in 104 countries and many in recent years have joined after coming across our main web site, which explains what our movement is about and from which all our books can be freely downloaded. We are actively promoting our ideas and events on the various social networks as well."
Within the site's FAQ section, you can even find a link to an affiliated pro human-cloning "project" Clonade, which you may remember for their unsubstantiated claims of a human cloning a decade back. In regards to human cloning, the Raelian rep specifically noted that "we do not fund any research project or actively participate in them in any other way than offering our moral support. Many Raelian members are scientists involved in various research projects as individuals, but never in the name of our organization."
Curiously, the Clonade project's site currently has a vague non-denial denial to the question (that someone asked apparently?) of whether they the group is currently attempting to clone Michael Jackson. I suppose a bunch of little Michael Jacksons might prove to be a powerful recruitment tool.
Universe-People.com: Aliens create a colorful mess
Similar to the Raelians but on the polar opposite end of the Web design spectrum is the bizarre Czech-based group, Universe People. From what we can tell on the group's site, their philosophy revolves a strange mix of anti-authoritarianism, meditation, UFO-worship, and cat pictures.
The group, which is alternately known as The Cosmic People of Light Powers, has a philosophy based on UFO worship of an alien named Ashtar Sheran. His (her? its?) fleet of 100,00 ships is orbiting the Earth, waiting to evacuate its people in a process that should have begun December 31 of last year.
The group advertises their galactic outlook via their English-language web portal, a nearly incomprehensible collage of colors, words, and virtual navigation. Aside from being fascinating as an odditiy, it is notable for being perhaps the messiest website in the history of the Internet. Have fun getting lost in this jumble of late-90s era Angelfire gabbida gook.
Fan Fiction.net: Fans take their turn
Fan fiction (or "fanfic") has long provided some of the web's strangest crowd-sourced content. Fan fiction is a medium where people can go to share their take on continuing adventures of their favorite fictional characters from movies, TV shows, books, and video games, beyond the borders of the original source material. And, as you might imagine, a lot of it is created by people who have fallen deep into the quicksands of make-believe.
To be sure, not all people who indulge in fan fiction are crazy--indeed some have used the medium to break into the mainstream in a very lucrative way. However, within the confines of this larger community, there's some crazy.
Many fan fiction portals exist to focus on a particular niche of popular culture, but the largest and oldest library of fanfic is the generalist fanfiction.net. Within this vast dream factory you can find everything from the continuing adventures of the 1980s puppet show Fraggle Rock, to meta-aware explorations of Mad Magazine comic "Spy vs Spy," to unfathomable crossovers of the worlds of Thor and Sherlock Holmes.
EquestriaDaily.com: Where bronies come to bronie-out
One of the most surreal subcultures of recent Internet history would have to be the bronies. For those who are unaware, "bronies" are grown adult men who are dedicated fans of the children's program My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. This is a community--which is large enough to hold their own conventions--that would not be able to exist before the Internet.
While the community has found a home on Internet funnels like 4Chan, one of the main virtual hangouts for this crew is EquestriaDaily.com. Within this virtual community, users are able to share their Pony-themed fanfic and artwork. To be sure, there is some element of self-aware snarkiness going on. But we should repeat: This is a community of grown men dedicated to the most recent animated incarnation of My Little Pony. That's a little on the weird side of life.
People are strange
As the Internet expands into the developing world, even more parts of the human story will emerge from the darkness. Some of that story will be brilliant, artful, enlightening or inspiring. But, happily, some of it will be bizarre, weird, or just plain ridiculous.