Laneway Dispatch
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Laneway Dispatch

Digital Daniel Andrews are tearing each other apart

Digital art of Daniel Andrews, created by @samjw.creative

On the 1st of November, a Facebook notification popped up. A clarion call, really. “DANS OUT,” the post announced. “GET ON THE BEERS”. The Facebook post — made in celebration of the Victorian lockdown lifting across the state — features a man dressed as the exhausted Victorian Premier lying on the floor, beer and wine littered next to him.

The photo was met with cheer and cheeky in-jokes. It was also met with anger, with someone even making nasty allegations against the Premiers’ wife. About what? A civil war is brewing, and it threatens to turn this outpost of shitposting into a battlefield.

Welcome to ‘a group where we all pretend to be daniel andrews’.

A Facebook page created to poke light-hearted fun at Daniel Andrews, the group has devolved into a cantankerous site where two sides of politics can get right up close to each other.

On the cultural graveyard that is Facebook, a new trend where groups of thousands (and sometimes millions) of people all pretend to be a person or trope is breathing some life back into the platform. Since the social media giant shifted towards their Groups feature, quirky and weird pages have filled the void. And nowhere is there more excitement on the platform than the rise of these groups, called digital larping. .

The birth of this format is largely attributed to ‘a group where we all pretend to be boomers’. Appearing suddenly in May 2019, the group is mostly made up of almost 300 thousand Millennials and Gen Zers pretending to be baby boomers, mimicking their poor handle on internet slang and so, so many minion memes.

A year and some change later,digital role-playing groups have blossomed on the Facebook flower bed. Whether it be ‘a group where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony’ (two million members) or ‘a group where we speak gibberish and pretend to understand each other’ (180 thousand members), there’s a group for everyone to pretend to be something else.

‘A group where we all pretend to be daniel andrews’ has almost 32 thousand members, with hundreds of posts caricaturing the platitudes of the Victorian Premier.

The success of the page has much to do with the new found notoriety of the Victorian Premier. The second wave of COVID and the corresponding lockdown attracted international media attention onto Victoria, and onto the unassuming figure of Premier Andrews. His plain manner of speech and consultative tone are easily memeable.

The posts flood in each day after Dan Andrews’ daily press briefing, beginning — just like the man himself — with “my fellow Victorians” (or occasionally a cheeky “my fellow dans”). Through the twists and turns of the state’s lockdown strategy, they’ve offered a snapshot of the average Victorian’s feelings.

The group was started in March of this year, by 18-year-old Bundoora local Tom Vaughan as a bit of a laugh as the state entered it’s first lockdown.. But the joke was absurdly popular, surprising even it’s creator. Within a month of it’s creation, the group was too popular for Vaughan to moderate on his own, and he’s since brought on seven other members (including his friends) to help out.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Vaughan. “ I didn’t expect to get many members at all, and didn’t really pay much attention to it when I first made it. It got to a point where I was getting hundreds of requests a day, which really got my attention.”

Vaughan explained that he got the idea to start the group from posts on his newsfeed memeing Andrew’s Facebook posting format.

“I thought it would be a funny thing to base a group off of. The “we all pretend to be [blank]” style is a popular style of Facebook group, so I decided that that would be the best way to direct the group.”

Whenever a community forms around the political campfires, it’s bound to get heated, and the 8 admins certainly have their hands full.

“The group is full of people with differing opinions on Andrews and politics as a whole, but I think the majority of members support him,” Vaughan said. “Generally, the group is left-leaning, but there are plenty of members who are not. For a school project I conducted a survey, and I found that almost 75% of the group support Andrews. However, this could be different now as 20,000 more members have joined.”

It certainly seems to have changed. Between posts signed off “Dictator Dan” and hashtagged #sackdanandrews, nostalgic non-Dans leave comments whispering of a mystical time not that long ago when the posts were all in good jest, and phrases like “get on the beers” where in-jokes circulated ad nauseum.

New members are bringing their conservative politics into the group, correlating with a rise in the number of posts antagonising the Premier. Many dwell on the continued lockdown, the poor handling of the hotel quarantine program, or personal attacks against the premier, all while still pretending to be Dan Andrews. Forces loyal to Andrews haven’t sat back silently, offering a counter offensive in the comments section for all these anti-Andrews posts.

For some people, the atmosphere of infighting has become so toxic they’ve packed up their bags, lay down their weapons, and left. As all Victorians are brought back together this weekend with the lifting of the Ring of Steel, perhaps we can hope for an armistice on the political battlefield, wherever it’s being fought.

Originally published at https://www.lanewaydispatch.com on November 15, 2020.

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Laneway Dispatch reports on the lives and experiences of the young and dynamic Australians. We appreciate our laneways, our favourite cafes and see not just the heritage of the cobblestone walkways, but the people making history today.

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