How to Read the Internet :)

So, how do you read the internet? Or, more specifically: how do you read internet lore?
Paul (from bible) invokes a kind of reading by proximity: if you stay in your neighborhood, youre never going to know whats happening in other parts. You learn by inhabiting the sites where people are deploying idioms and making (or unmaking) their meaning. Real-time participation, more than passive studying, produces literacy in a language that is always evolving. That language isnt mapped to our standardized dictionaries, but to the ones embedded in the lores internal world.
If Googling the idioms and retrofitting them to existing textual models doesnt explain their niche usage, you simply must follow the lore — you nudge your e-body into its current and float along its path. As it takes you from site to site, a story unfolds in real time. You read its words as if youre hearing them momentarily reverberate through the air, because theyll never reappear in quite the same way again. If youre not there to hear a certain version, youre too late. This feeling, like you had to be there, seems nonsensical in a medium that is ostensibly a perfect, static record of written information. But when that data isnt easily searchable, accounts, scenes, and aesthetics are what you follow.
You can scroll through old posts to simulate a storys unfolding. But to read this way is to treat these artifacts like the text in a book, as if the words and images themselves comprise the lore when rearranged properly. And, in a formal way, the legacy of an internet event is like a book: the visual inputs and outputs it occurred through can persist and be replayed, over and over. But it, like all books, is a fake book. It doesnt objectively describe the event; rather, it transcribes its traces. Since these traces remain dynamic, they synthesize into a whole that is constantly morphing. So, for each internet event, there might be infinite different books documenting versions of its occurrence. The version you get to read depends on how and when you encountered its artifacts.
Since these lore artifacts remain alive and responsive to our touch,
A digitally preserved event unfolds differently each time we interact with its traces, reacting to our queries and decisions, imposing on us a kind of authorship. In the words of Foley, such events recur, but dont repeat, varying within limit upon each instance. This is why reading lore can be a lonely experience. You see through your own viewport, with its own set of interactive variables. But its not always lonely. The difference between your experience and another persons can be minimized until almost negligible. This simulates an actual collective experience upon which a consensus can emerge. It can feel like youre close to each other, thus close to that potential consensus about whats happening.

For an experience to feel communal, it helps to have a shared vantage point. When an events context is centralized to a fixed digital space, its easier for participants to view from similar perspectives. A good example of such a contained, synchronous internet event is the @ad_god Tiktok stream from our previous post, which occurred via one broadcasting source. As long as you were plugged-in while there were developments in the gameplay, youd likely have a similar memory to someone else who was present in those moments, thanks to the controlled interactivity of the stream.
But in the case of the tumblrinas or the vibe shifters, consensus is slippery and, I daresay, decentralized. It remains confined to the in group while its runaway artifacts lend themselves to infinite readings, far removed from original provenance. This makes it easy to co-opt — eventually, a journalist-figure comes along to manufacture and publish a pieced-together origin-story. We could say that this is what Monahans Substack trend forecast did to the vibe shift that Pauls online community experienced. And a full 8 months after that, The Cut surprised us with an article replicating the phenomenon at the level of mass media. The article, like Monahans essay, uses the term to describe a trend. It writes the vibe shift into formal history, the paper of record, leaving the lore in the dust. The term has joined a Googleable lexicon, its meaning tied to a broadly legible story bearing no relation to the one it emerged from. Having triggered the anxiety Monahan wrote about back in June on a new, viral scale, Vibe Shift even has its own Know Your Meme entry now. As of late February, the wiki credits Monahan as originator. Those who render the unreadable readable are rewarded.
I guess its fitting that the articles exclude the raw material behind the vibe shift lore. The in group posts that Paul cites rely on context that simply doesnt translate. Lore isnt written in stone like the calcified records of official history youll find in static media. Its traced in sand, its form ephemeral and its meaning malleable. Reading the internet is moving through information thats situational, emerging in fleeting snippets.

The Lore Zone, How to Read the Internet