Memes are cathartic. They’re an open format to play with our deepest sympathies, rawest sentiments, and often, our dumbest sensibilities. When the meme really hits, there’s a feeling of empathy with the creator and the distributor. It fosters a genuine bond, one that can form a digital community. That feeling is where recurring Brooklyn party Cooler Online was born — a party described as “an IRL party for URL friends hosted by @th0tcouture, @yung_nihilist & @mxalyzaenriquez in support of women, QTPOC, and dank memes.”
The concept was originally conceived back in 2016, between longtime friends Amelia Capaz (aka @th0tcouture) and Alyza Enriquez (aka @mxalyzaenriquez). The early editions of Cooler Online only featured work by Amelia and Alyza, with 15-minute videos of random GIFs and Capaz’s memes animated by Enriquez. Between difficult venue layouts and discouraging initial turnouts, Capaz fell back onto hosting other events, and the Cooler Online concept laid dormant for some time. That is until Bianca Perez, known to the Internet as @yung_nihilist, slid into Capaz’s DMs. The trio revived the concept in May 2017, with reinvigorated energy to expand the initial project and put on for their digital and real-life friends.
Cooler Online is a one-of-a-kind function. The party celebrates the humorous and insightful work of online creators, so meme makers and account admins are invited to create pieces for each event, which are then projected on walls, gallery-style, throughout the night. The party takes the momentary comedic relief of a well-made meme and extends it into a night-long affair by gathering both online and offline friends and supporting local DJs. You not only pull up and get excited when you see the homies; you’re equally as hype when you peep one of your favorite Instagram or Twitter account’s memes projected on screen.
As its description suggests, Cooler Online centers the experiences of women and QTPOC. Translating this mission from the virtual communities the members of Cooler Online operate within to offline spaces isn’t always simple, Enriquez points out. “How do we say this is what we’re about? How do we state that openly? We can’t control who comes to the party, [but] we can control who sees it, and I think it’s always been intrinsically there. It’s been amazing to navigate what you do in order to make sure people know outside of that space what’s happening, but also when you’re in that space, this is what we’re about, because [the creators of Cooler Online] all inherently carry those traits, like queerness, being of color, Latinidad.”
“The objective is to have fun and foster that community so that people can meet and come together.”
Capaz and Perez have an impressive online presence, not simply based on follower count, but on engagement as well. But that doesn’t come at the price of authenticity. As her handle @yung_nihilist implies, Perez’s work unabashedly plays on nihilism in all its multidimensional, millennial facets. As @th0tcouture, Capaz explores her past and present interests, including reggaeton, Shakira, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and The Sims, to name just a few. While the subject matter of memes can vary from the light-hearted to the more serious, there’s always power in that humor, whether it’s by sparking necessary dialogue or the simple idea that you’re not alone in an oddly specific sentiment. That sensibility thrives in the memes featured at Cooler Online. “The people who we decide to feature in the show – they do carry a similar message, or just a similar humor even,” Capaz says. “Not everything in the entire party is a political statement…the objective is to have fun and foster that community so that people can meet and come together.”
The vision for Cooler Online is bigger than just a party, though. A website is in the works with friend and frequent collaborator Prashast Thapan (@akaprash). Prash, who works with animation and CGI, has designed most of the flyers for previous editions of the party. For each event, he’s drawn visual inspiration from Internet nostalgia, using references to relics like AIM chats or Runescape. The website would ideally become a platform to publish Enriquez’s photos of Cooler Online events. Perez adds, “A lot of the people who we’ve had featured in the past have really grown in their own content-making to making real things… it would be a cool place to get updates [on our content collaborators].”
It all comes down to creating community. With all three of the Cooler Online creators working in social media, it’s easy to assume they’re wary of spending more time online, but the trio is putting in the essential work to provide an IRL space for the marginalized communities they come from. As Enriquez shares, “I’m very disenfranchised with the Internet in general and I’m very skeptical of people’s intentions and how genuine they can be, and getting to know [Amelia and Bianca], [I’m] seeing this can actually become something where we make change happen.” Providing a space for you, making you laugh, and giving a platform to the content creators they support is what Cooler Online is all about. “It’s not the 90s anymore, Dad,” jokes Perez. It shouldn’t be frowned upon to meet people on social media. Cooler Online is here to let you know that, and to give you a place to turn your URL friends into IRL friends.
The next Cooler Online party hits Brooklyn’s Starr Bar on June 30 at 10 p.m. For more information, check out the flyer below or head over to the Facebook event.