Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Cuh Dey Board vs Cat Whiskers: Our Content Communities

In Dec. 2018, DanandPhilGAMES, the fastest growing YouTube channel at the time, went on an indefinite hiatus. A year later, after a long period of silence, both Dan Howell and Phil Lester (or Dan and Phil as their fans know them) came out as gay, marking a new era for their content creation. Recently the two have resurrected their gaming channel to much fanfare. As such, the internet is faced with an existential question: Will the 2010s internet culture make a real comeback?

The early 2010s internet – especially YouTube – was, in many ways, a unique era of creativity. The words cat whiskers, llama hats and “YouTube Rewind” might forcefully remind some of us of a time when the most popular online creators were largely embedded in meme culture; rendering them approachable and creating a cultural tour de force for tweens, teens and young adults. 

Yes, this was the time of The Fault In Our Stars, the time of Supernatural Conventions and, broadly, Super Fandoms. Identity, culture and life were all jumbled together in the new public sphere of the internet, with fandoms cementing their presence on blog sites and other social media like Tumblr.

Remember “Teddy Has An Operation,” “Shia Lebouf Live,” “Llamas With Hats” or “history of the entire world, I guess”? All of these videos, published on YouTube throughout the 2010s, became instant successes, with catch-phrases from each entering the internet’s lexicon. These modes of creative expression became a way for like-minded people to communicate with each-other. The phrase “Shia surprise,” for example, could be dropped in any social setting – virtual or IRL – and those that ‘get it’ would inevitably react. Or, if one wanted to indicate their infatuation with Dan and Phil, all they had to do was say “the cat whiskers come from within,” and like some kind of vocal bat signal, they would be immediately identifiable as a “phan.” 

When comparing the relative cultural gold mine that was the 2010s internet subculture to modern ‘Gen Z’ internet culture, the decay in both quality and social value is palpable. 

Today’s catchphrases center on memes that largely stem from TikTok. One such example is the phrase “cuh dey board,” which stems from TikTok creator “Montaine” (@ohmontaine) who published a rap about hate comments, uttering the phrase ‘because they’re bored’ in a stilted way, creating the meme. Montaine also gained virality on TikTok for filming himself making relationship advice thirst-traps while cutting food on a large wooden cutting board. As a result, Montaine’s cutting board videos are often inundated with the comment “cuh dey board.”  The phrase migrated to Twitter, where it is now used to signify a sort of negative or cringe feeling about any given circumstance. 

The difference between the two cultures is that one seems to be centered around love for a group of people or performance, whereas the other relies on negative feeling towards an individual. This shift makes sense in the context of a larger social move towards self-involved content (TikTok) rather than watching others’ content (YouTube). 

The International Advertising Bureau of the UK (IAB UK) explains the appeal of short form videos: “Videos are discovered through a content graph instead of social connections, and this is what drives the surprise and joy that comes from each video being something new the user hasn’t actively looked for.”

According to the Surgeon General, whose 2023 advisory report labels loneliness an “epidemic,” loneliness is more widespread today than ever before.

It is precisely this newly created gap between the individual and her social connections that have changed the way internet culture works. Community is no longer a key feature of content creation/consumption. Creators don’t need to build their audience through appealing to groups of like-minded friends (a strategy which Dan and Phil mastered). The only sense of community provided by short-form video apps like TikTok is in the comments, such as commenting “cuh dey board,” which is itself an isolating act; one does not need a friend group to receive likes on a TikTok comment. 

Comparatively, 2010s internet was heavily supported by ‘IRL’ connections. For example, in 2015, the vast majority of people who filled out the yearly ‘dan and phil survey’ on Tumblr reported that they knew people ‘offline’ who watch Dan and Phil’s YouTube channels, and that they actively discussed the videos with their IRL friends. 

It would be disingenuous to say that 2010s internet culture was perfect, or that our current internet culture is entirely bad. Both cultural moments have their pros and cons; but, in this moment of declining attention spans and a relative dearth of creativity, the resurrection of channels like DanandPhilGAMES will steer younger generations in the direction of much-needed thought-provoking and creative content, hopefully allowing them to make more connections offline in the process.

View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Comments (2)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    AnnaNov 3, 2023 at 1:51 pm

    Dan and Phil in the first sentence is so brave

  • N

    NiallNov 2, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Definitely agree. TikTok is steering today’s youth down a path where it sucks them further into the platform. I miss old fandoms.