“You know, in New York people talk. She was hesitant, but eventually gave in. Photos courtesy Patia Borja We all were so excited to share the apple pie we got on the Lower East Side. In recent months, Borja and her friends have become even more adamant about keeping the page that way. It’s one part absurd, one part obscene — and rooted in Black cultural references and Black experiences. Humor aside, there’s a deeper nostalgic appeal to Borja’s posts. “The person who understands her is the person I want laughing at my content. And then Instagram made that really annoying transition into influencer culture.”
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So she returned to her Tumblr roots. “But post something serious about Black life, and they get upset.” Her approach is often to face them head on, by correcting them in the comments sections and on the page. Login • Instagram
Borja, like pretty much everyone else her age, spent a lot of time on the internet growing up. “I live a pretty simple life.” This nonchalance makes her the perfect guide to surviving lockdown, and she’s become something of an internet dignitary during these past few troubling months.With help from friends MISTERVACATION and River Moon, the 27-year-old runs @patiasfantasyworld — the meme page you’ve almost definitely heard of if you’re very online and live in New York City, or probably would have soon stumbled across if you’re very online and live anywhere else. I’m honest.” Which is true. One that was more low stakes. She refined her tastes, favoring things like the oddly cutting Facebook status updates that have become her bread and butter — calling people out for having hot breath or explaining how to know if your man has been faithful. On forums and microblogging sites like LiveJournal and later Tumblr, the intended audience of a blog wasn’t usually the masses, but rather insiders in the know: groups of marginalized people sharing stories, academics and organizers sharing resources, even just fans of a particular niche TV show making fan content. “My goal is not to be 40 years old, making fucking memes. Patia Borja doesn’t take things too seriously. In May 2020, she hit the 100K mark. “I always thought it was stupid to have a finsta if you weren’t poppin,” Borja says. But her online life didn’t heat up until 2017, when she gave into peer pressure and decided to make a finsta. There are strict community guidelines prohibiting nudity. I considered deleting,” Borja says. “I feel like I’m a 13-year-old boy sometimes,” she explains. I want to do a partnership with Bussy Boy.”Related | When White Kids Grow Up on the Black InternetAnyone even remotely familiar with Banks, the Harlem-born rapper and online shit-starter might see the connection between her and Borja — both aware they’re not everyone’s cup of tea (in Banks’ case, sometimes to a fault), both going ahead and doing what they want anyway and most importantly, both really fucking funny. A year later, her follower count had climbed to 30,000. Login • Instagram
Borja says the reason people like her page is simple: “I’m real. “I think I bridge the gap between the corniness of having a meme account and, like, the hood shit.” She still thinks of the account like a finsta, and it feels like an inside joke as a result. And that’s the secret to her success. “I’m still blowing my paychecks on UberEats,” she tells PAPER. “I think I was just bored. And I was definitely unemployed,” she says.She was hesitant to make a traditional finsta — which typically involves long diaristic posts or almost-nudes or both. Go follow Fuckjerry or something. I didn’t want to be that girl with the weird account.” Even then, she started to worry if the burden of running a meme account was even worth the trouble. “For me was like ‘Oh Fuck!’ I’ve never had that many followers on a social media platform. “I have a kind of fucked up sense of humor.” But she knew her friends had the same sensibilities. She made her way to 1,000 followers by January 2019, which at the time felt like a lot. By design, Instagram stands at odds with the microblogging sites that came before it. Even as the page grows, she prefers to keep it low-key, and let it lead her to whatever opportunities come along, even if that means letting it go someday. Follower counts are public, making measuring the “success” of an account easy to assess, and then monetize. The responses have been a stark reminder that despite her intentions, the page’s following is largely out of her control.”All of these people who are not Black love to laugh at Black jokes that come from Black pain or trauma,” she says. “The only fucking person I make my account for,” she says. After about a year, they started nudging her to go public. She decided to stick with it, posting regularly and recruiting backup to contribute to the page as engagement grew. Part of what makes this recent wave of similar meme pages on Instagram so compelling is that they harken back to a different, slightly less connected internet. “We all thought the fucking filters were cool. And then her friends got involved, sending her things they wouldn’t normally post on their own pages. Not even during a pandemic. “I think other people would take it much harder than I would,” she says of that eventuality. “At first, it was pure,” Borja says. I’m not that wack.”
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Ideally, Borja wants to use her experience to find others to make spaces for Black people to find joy and talk shit on the Internet.”I just want to make people smile,” she says. Her blog was “mostly memes and fucked up images,” as you might expect.Related | It’s Time to Have the Colorism ConversationWhen she originally joined Instagram, Borja had no intention of replicating her Tumblr blog — like everyone else at the time, she saw the platform as something different. There are so many white meme accounts that have content for you.”When I ask if there is a target audience for Patia’s Fantasy World other than her friends, she immediately responds with a single name: Azealia Banks. Login • Instagram
“I have lots of non-Black POC commenting and messaging me saying they felt like they really resonated with the humour on my account,” she says. When our digital lives weren’t so tied to our “real” lives, and small online communities felt more insulated. Instead of obsessing over followers, or posting things that she knows people will like, Borja just does what she wants. “And I have to ask, since 90 percent of the content I post says ‘nigga’ in it, what resonated? And they can’t answer. But with several high-profile police killings of Black people making headlines over the past few weeks, she has faced backlash from followers for breaking form and posting information and resources to support organizing efforts. As a Black woman (fans are often surprised to discover her gender) who’s seen Black culture in many forms co-opted across the internet, Borja is keenly aware of the power of community online and how difficult it is for Black people to find it. After a while, saving them became a habit. It makes perfect sense then that Borja was a Tumblr kid. With its focus on community, Patia’s Fantasy World has become a subversion of Instagram’s ethos: a place to connect for a largely Black and queer audience that’s in on the joke. There are no rules in Patia’s Fantasy World: An image of someone grating a bar of soap over a bowl of pasta fits right next to a map demonstrating how the initials of the countries in North America spell “cum.” And a few posts above that is a post calling out someone who said something racist in the comments section. “Like what the fuck do you need a finsta for?” Related | How to Support BLM Protesters in Every CityThe result was a few selfies posted on a private account, alongside a curated collection of memes and other funny images that Borja had found online.