Illustration by Cathryn Virginia / Photo by Maksym Panchuk/EyeEm via Getty Images
Recently, my closet ate two of my favorite records. The albums slipped behind a shelf, making it humanly impossible for me to reach them. My only thought was, fuck my life. Was it a dramatic reaction? Yes. But it took me back to the days of F My Life, or FML, a French microblog I browsed on my Sidekick back in the late 1970s.
On days when I desperately needed to feel like I wasn’t the only one waking up on the wrong side of the bed, FML offered me a sense of community. Suddenly my shit was tiny in the grand scheme of other people’s problems. An archetypal post from 2009, by user KAAALIS, read, “Today I bit my boyfriend’s neck. I felt something squirt into my mouth. Turns out I had just popped a pimple on her neck. In my mouth. FML. »
Once I stopped sulking about my highs, I hit the site for the first time in a decade, curious to know if people were still posting their low-stakes Ls. To my surprise, and despite the popularity of Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, people were still active on the site. A user worried that her son’s introversion would prevent him from having a social life. Users flooded the comments section to defend his behavior, with some sharing their own experiences. Another, who had to deal with a landlord who refused to fix his hot water, was incited by other users to start a rent strike. I wondered why a stripped-down old website like FML thrived in an age of maximalist social engagement — and why it seemed to have undergone a serious shift in tone.
What was once a site college kids used for crude humor is now where this same generation, as fully-fledged adults, go to the dumping ground of trauma. Interspersed with stories of first dates or pooping and peeing (there’s a whole section devoted to that), readers now find articles on real adult issues regarding marriage and capitalism. Take this anonymous submission posted in March this year: “Today after an argument a month ago, my husband has refused to cook since. After a month without his food, I realized at this point in our marriage that his cooking is literally the only thing I love more about him. I think I want a divorce. Above the food. What an end to marriage. FML. »
This is a significant evolution of the original purpose of the site. At 19, Maxime Valette, the site’s creator, started a blog, Vie de Merde – French for “shitty life” – as an outlet to share his daily annoyances. What started as a forum for Valette’s grievances over small things like washing dishes has turned into a place where her friends and family can share their version of their shitty lives, too. That year, Valette launched a feature on VDM where the public could anonymously submit their fun and relatable misadventures in 320 characters or less. The following year, Valette expanded its business to the American market, adjusting the name to F My Life. He took off.
The site was extremely popular among students and college campuses. FML’s early submissions were funny and, oftentimes, gag-worthy, like Button’s. Once an entry is posted, users vote on it: “I agree, your life sucks” or “You deserved it.” Take the 2009 neck article, for example: over 700,000 users felt sympathy for this button, but nearly 500,000 people thought they were asking for it.
Now, when people say they’ve been fired or passed over for a promotion, the community provides them with guidance on how to look for another job. “I’m surprised how much the spirit of the community has changed,” said Alan Holding, who is currently the site’s sole moderator. “Users have grown with the website. It became like a support group.
There probably couldn’t be a better time for a resurgence of the MLF, according to its founder. “FML was born out of the crisis,” Valette said. After the 2007 recession in the United States, the French economy collapsed the following year. “In 2008, people were going through tough times, so having a website where you can ease the pain or read something that makes you laugh is why it took off so quickly.” It still resonates today, when the political unrest is constant and the world is even more chaotic than when the site began in 2008: we are in the midst of another impending financial crisis, a two-year pandemic and more, a war in Ukraine, and the constant feeling that our individual choices are not helping matters. According to Valette, the site has seen a 44% growth in users, or about two million new users, since 2020.
Although neither Valette nor Holding can concretely say what caused this recent spike, Holding thinks it could be related to Facebook fatigue. “In 2008, Facebook was taking over everything,” he said. “Now I think people are tired of Facebook.” This backs up the data: In February, Vox reported a fourth-quarter drop in Meta, as the social media site lost half a million daily users. This is the company’s first drop in users since its inception. The resurgence of FML is also linked to the pandemic, when people spent more time online than ever before, especially as a means of social connection. The site even added new categories dedicated to COVID and Zoom.
Trauma dumping is not unique to the site – TikTok has over 14 million views of videos with the hashtag #traumadumping, dedicated to grievances of all kinds, plus 84 million views on #fuckmylife videos. But the revival of the FML site itself suggests a longing for our old, less guarded internet personas – when our lives carried less responsibility and the problems of our younger ones more easily translated into ways to make each other laugh. .
According to Valette, millennials make up the majority of the US site’s population, which checks: People in their 20s and 30s, who grew up in tandem with social media, have come to see their more intimate experiences being shared. online as natural during their young adulthood, although this was not always the case. Despite the current theory that oversharing is dead, FML’s enduring popularity is proof that people don’t want to stop confessing, but, as also evidenced by the successes of other semi-anonymous sites like Reddit, some always prefer to do it semi-private.
Although many of the site’s most popular topics have matured alongside its users, its focus still feels familiar. Although today’s trauma dumps on FML aren’t the (sometimes more literal) types of dumps the site uses to glorify, the intended result is similar: you feel much better once they’re out. of your system.
Kristin Corry is Senior Writer for VICE.