Home Featured The Residual Self Image and How “Ironically Ratchet” Became the New Thing

The Residual Self Image and How “Ironically Ratchet” Became the New Thing

There Is No Spoon

Remember The Matrix? It was that super cool action/sci-fi flick with Keanu Reaves that spawned two impossibly horrible sequels. One of the things I remember most about The Matrix is that it introduced me to the term “residual self image.” In the film, your residual self image is your real-world mind’s mental projection of yourself while plugged into the matrix. Basically, it’s a way cooler version of yourself that only exists in the computer program. Since the Matrix came out, the world’s been taken over by the internet. Many of us spend more time “plugged in,” at our jobs, through our phones, laptops and tablets than we do in the real-world. We all have online personalities and personas, and for some of us, those online personas line up pretty accurately with who we are in real life. For others … not so much. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on our personal blogs and Tumblr accounts, some of us have created residual self images so far from who we really are that they sometimes become impossible to maintain.

Versace Shirt + Bottle of Moscato = Ironically Ratchet

Last week I read a blog post where the comments section twisted into a discussion around wine choice. One commenter mentioned their affinity for moscato. What followed her comment were another fifty comments centered around her drink of choice, many of which lampooning her and people like her for their supposedly unrefined wine pallet. Of course there was the commenter who blamed Drake, then there was the commenter who explained for us in painstaking detail the type of grape used to make moscato, and then there was the wine connoisseur to tell us what we should be drinking instead of moscato. Each diatribe struck me as odd, but for a time, I couldn’t really figure out why. Then it hit me: Amongst the internet’s tasting-making, elite, calling people out for drinking moscato is so 2011. To do so is to expose the gap between who you are in real life and the residual self-image you’re projecting while plugged into the internet. This is because in real life, the world’s taste-makers and purveyors of awesome have absolutely no problem exhibiting areas of their taste that happen to be ironically ratchet. In reality everyone loves moscato. Not liking moscato is like not liking Kool-Aid. It’s sweet, it comes in a bottle with a cork (most of the time) and if you drink enough of it you’ll get a nice little buzz. We all know it’s meant to be a dessert wine, still, don’t be surprised if at the next BBQ you attend you find a bunch of college educated folks sipping moscato out of red cups while yelling something like “Nine months later … similac!”

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Didn't Surf the net, didn't have MySpace. Now has a blog and a huge twitter following.

This dynamic has its roots in the rapidly expanding landscape of the internet. When my generation (the millennial generation) was coming of age in the late 90’s the internet wasn’t really the place to hang out if you weren’t the kind of kid who played Magic the Gathering in between classes. Sure, most folks jumped on the various, early social networking bandwagons, from BlackPlanet to Friendster, and then later, MySpace. Still back then, the only folks who were perpetually dialed in, to the point of creating residual self-images, were the kids who saw the world through HTML coded sunglasses.

But the awesome thing about those early adopters to this perpetually connected lifestyle is that they had no pretension or self consciousness about who they were. The internet for them wasn’t a place to go and pretend to be someone else, but instead a place to go and find others who shared similar real life interests. At some point, between the advent of Facebook and Twitter and the emergence of smartphones as the mobile device of choice, the “cool kids” found the internet and took up residence. Now, when I say “cool kids,” I don’t mean the Kanye’s of the world, I mean the folks who inspire folks like Kanye, the Gladwellian mavens of the world. With their arrival on the internet came the same trendsetting, the same swag-jacking and the same subsequent social stratification once reserved strictly for lunch room tables and velvet roped club lines. And where there is that kind of separation, there will always be pretenders. This is how folks who’ve never thrown a punch become internet gangsters and this is how folks who couldn’t tell the difference between a sauvignon blanc and a moscato become the boughiest folks on the net.

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Both the internet’s early adopters and the late adopting cool kids of the net have in common their contentedness in accepting the contradictions that come with being yourself. This how the phenomenon of ironic ratchedness came to prominence. Somewhere some internet revolutionary nonchalantly expressed seemingly contradictory but actually complimentary influences, like say Jack Kirby and Pablo Picasso and a lightening bolt cracked across the social networking stratosphere: it’s o.k. to be ratchet when you know you’re being ratchet and when everyone knows you know better. But like most revolutionary and progressive ideas in the age of the internet, the realization that ratchet ain’t always wrong is being adopted quite liberally, almost to the point of corniness. It’s only a matter of time till the folks who have residual self images that are distant from their reality realize how cool one seems to others when reconciling interests that seem diametrically opposed. At that point, it’ll become as played as calling someone out for drinking a wine you know you really love.


Actually … it’s already starting to happen. #YOLO

Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @MrSpradley



  1. Thought provoking. Very much so because I see it but I couldn't pinpoint what was making me uncomfortable at times when the word "ratchet" came up–when other people said it lol. I get what you mean though. I get it. I got you. Hmmm. "it’s o.k. to be ratchet when you know you’re being ratchet and when everyone knows you know better." <I'm trying to figure out if I perpetuate this at times. I don't like the idea of that.

    1. We’re all ironically ratchet sometimes, even Mr. President said at the White House Dinner he gonna sing Young Jeezy. We all ghetto B (c) Jigga. Whether its online, drunk with friends or in the comfort of your home….one will experience some ratchet even if its to see what the hype is about. Even the bougiest negreauxs will watch some Maury, tear up some fried chicken, or try to try to make it clap in the mirror.

      1. I don't care what anyone says, the second one was the best to me. Perfect mix of philosophy and action. That third one though…

        1. The second one was booty.
          You don't introduce an awesome character concept like the Merovingian and then give him 15 minutes of dialogue between two movies.
          You don't introduce a character like the kid and NOT explain that he was the first person to free himself from the Matrix-then expect you to care about him for two movies.
          You do NOT make a sequel THEN explain to someone that you will not understand it unless you saw the Animatrix.
          That whole thing pissed me off.

        2. It's not perfect, but better than the first. In my opinion.

          The Merovingian was a waste in the third movie, but the used him properly in the second. He's a information trafficker, they got the Keymaker from him, and fought his boys. And they gave him some great lines.

          They could have done much more with the kid, and it is a shame what they did with the Architect in part 3.

          (Wait a minute, a woman that can talk about the Matrix and looks like that? There really are good women out there!)

        3. I cook, too. #SeeWhatIDidThere

          The only purpose of the Merovingian storyline was to show of Monica Bellucci's breasts as they should properly be shown in clothing. The rest, without the proper cultivation, was a waste.
          I hated every second of that car chase scene. The twins in the chris brown "wall to wall" video were more entertaining.
          They dropped the ball so hard with the kid & the Architect that I cannot forgive the second movie. We will have to agree to disagree.
          Related and yet not, I feel like I am the only person on the planet that LOVED the human war storyline in the third. And the Animatrix was ERRTHANG. Why they didn't make it into a TV/movie series I'll never know. Hundreds of potential stories.

  2. Hm. I don't have enough social media presence to have an internet persona but I definitely am two different people online and offline. ONline I'm very talkative and open and sort of more willing to converse and be cordial and I really only have a twitter so that I can vent and be completely honest and raw emotionally. I only follow people whose posts are positive or they put a smile on my face. It's like a self generated support system and social media is how I disperse my emotional state. OFFline I'm a type A overachiever, I'm all about business, big dreamer, kinda prudish though, uber conservative. I'm very lock and key so there's definitely a difference between how I carry myself and I like the two to be very seperate.

    I think being two different people can be a good thing for some.

    1. Like a gangster in the real world can come online and read books and up his education and find different avenues of support without it directly affecting his "street cred" and it's a safe way for him to develop himself. I don't think it works in a way where you can come online and try to parlay a fake confidence to the real world. I don't think someone who specializes in accruing Twitter followers can necessarily take that and have real world leadership ability because of an online persona. I do think in some instances the internet can be a safe or comfortable way to showcase a different part of yourself and in some instances it's a way to have a complete lie about who you are and the confidence you have. I would hope people are relatively one and the same though.

    2. When it comes to distorted self image…I'm not sure where I stand on that. I think my view of myself is exactly realistic. I have a mental picture of myself as the baddest woman on the planet and sometimes when I'm alone in the house you can't pay me to stop winking at myself in the mirror. I do think there's some work to be done to my appearance before I'm at that perfect ten version of myself but..I had an experience where I was telling my best friend/sigfig about my thoughts on myself and I was trying on clothes and stuff messing around with my hair and fashion and my look trying to ask for HIS opinion. He showed his friends. I had this female tell me her boyfriend hs a video of me on his phone and he watches it in bed as opposed to giving her attention. They had this whole thing going…'I'll never forget when she…' I had very extreme reactions once he put me on front street. Absolutely mortifying. BUT. It makes me think like…maybe. My view is SLIGHTLY distorted. Or either I'm just not fully aware of that part of myself yet.

      1. I think the internet worked backwards for me. Something that happened online caused such a drastic mortifying experience in my real life I literally blocked everyone on my facebook and incinerated all my friends and completely just. Slate clean. Never happened. It created this entirely new persona in my real life that has nothing to do with how I am. Distorted image or not. I don't like walking in a room and having people recognize me by features that have nothing to do with who I am or facial recognition. Like…I don't wanna be recognized by my butt. I liked being recognized by the causes I support and the speeches I give. I was playing around on the internet. I don't want that crossing into real life. I mean it's not like THAT like, when I have kids they can look at it safely I just mean it's weird having a persona in my real life where I get such extreme reactions it makes me think my self image is slightly distorted. It's mortifying.

  3. I dont think my residual self image is that much different from myself in real life. Anyone who really knows me knows i’m just as random as my Facebook, i talk as much as i tweet and i know i know i look better in real life (c) Yeezy. I think the common misconception is someone who’s life sucks in real life makes a twitter and nine months later…..e-celeb.

  4. Deep.

    Altho I'm of the same generation as yourself, I think, I was one of those early adopters of the Internet. I've always been a lowkey nerd with only minimal shame. I actually taught myself HTML. Those who know me know my BlackPlanet page was on and poppin. I used to barter system my way through college via page designs. But before BP I was on WBS Chat and I'm so old I was on AOL before AIM. Don't even try to do the math. I've been on the e-streets for far too long. It's wild.

    I never got into the Facebook movement and I feel like that's when I got left behind. I feel like everyone else got raptured except me. Folks hide behind the "it's just the Internet" line as if the people living on the Internet don't exist outside of it. I've never understood that and likely never will. Not sure I want to. Have y'all seen Catfish? Great movie! I think it really juxtaposes the mindset of the main two main types of people who inhabit the Internet. Look into it.

    My recent post 5 Ways to Tell a Woman She’s Bad in Bed

    1. "I actually taught myself HTML. Those who know me know my BlackPlanet page was on and poppin."

      Man, BP made self-taught HTML programmers out of many a person, lol. I dabbled in it some, but never did anything elaborate. My playboy bunny 8-ball on spin rotation was the height of my BP page back in the day, lol.

    2. Wis I saw that crazy movie Catfish…..that was a damn good movie. I love how toward the end the old guy sitting on the porch explains the "Catfish theory." That chick was crazy as hell..she is lucky she didn't pull that ish wit the wrong person…..she may not have lived to tell about it. And that guy Neb is just as crazy for just going to see her like that.

    3. "Folks hide behind the "it's just the Internet" line as if the people living on the Internet don't exist outside of it. I've never understood that and likely never will."

      This. Also, BP put me on to HTML. I stole someone's fancy scrolly msg+image thinamajig and worked out how to customize it to my liking before going to drop guest messages on all the cute boys' pages.

  5. Eh, Black blogging was the way different back before the under 29 set got in the game. Back in (looks at resume to remember what job it was where I first started blogging so I can determine the year) the late 90's, there was a level of sincerity that didn't revolve around getting hits and trying to be paid writers. In fact, we were able to use our real names with little regard for backlash. Then it became popular so that you couldn't be at work, at Republic Gardens, or at the Safeway and someone not recognize you. Then the game changed. Anyway, everything evolves for the good or for the bad. (That whole paragraph makes me sound like someone's aunt. Sheesh.)

    As for this new type of acceptable ignorance, the difference between 2 Chainz (who is calculating, smart, and playing a character), and NWA is that when NWA did it, people like me (nerdy girl) could get into it while others rebuked it at every turn. Tauheed Epps is being embraced by everyone because nobody who can read takes him seriously. And sometimes, even those of us who theoretically shouldn't get his music, need silly time. The only problem is that there are many in our community who doesn't get that he's just playing a character. These people don't know that if you find any rapper's real name, you can do an 'offender search' on them to see if they really have the rap sheet they talk about. You can also search their name and see if they have college credits. Unfortunately, they are the offspring of the same folks who didn't get that NWA weren't really the criminals they claimed to be.

    1. Eh, Black blogging was the way different back before the under 29 set got in the game. Back in the late 90's, there was a level of sincerity that didn't revolve around getting hits and trying to be paid writers. In fact, we were able to use our real names with little regard for backlash. Then it became popular so that you couldn't be at work, at Republic Gardens, or at the Safeway and someone not recognize you. Then the game changed. Anyway, everything evolves for the good or for the bad.

      For what it's worth, I'd like to offer a sincere thanks for this comment. I think I personally need to get back to my roots of writing for fun instead of writing for income, because the latter goal has definitely drained some of the joy out of writing as a whole.

      As you mentioned, the constant backlash and scrutiny is <<<<<<< as well. I started writing because I like writing, not to fight with random strangers day-in and day-out or get a certain number of page views based on a title…. lol why do I feel like I'm having a #BackInMyDayMoment right now?


      1. Wis unfortunately whenever you turn what you love to do into a job and begin to capitalize of of it, things get messy and it's not all fun and games anymore. The business side of the hobby sucks, but u gotta do it.

  6. I wouldn't say that my online persona is a different person, it's actually a part of my personality that already exist. However, because I'm a slighty introverted, many people don't get a chance to see that side of me (unless they're in my charmed circle). In real life I'm passive-aggressive. So in a face-to-face setting you may get passive, on facbook/blogger they they read the aggressive lol. I'm a Gemini, sue me 🙂

  7. "he internet for them wasn’t a place to go and pretend to be someone else, but instead a place to go and find others who shared similar real life interests"

    This is exactly how I feel. When I first hopped onto Prodigy back in the day, the internet was a place to escape into a world of BBS and finding other geeks. I always used psuedonyms and never gave a clue as to who I really was. But now that game has changed and the net can be leveraged as an online extension of who I am. I've met several great folks socially and professionally online, which is why I decided to start going by my real name a few years ago.
    My recent post Technology Inspirations: My Dad

  8. This post hits home with me today as I was just thinking about “30 is the new 20” quote by Jigga and what was he really trying to say. I know mad random but it fits. Being 30 in 2012 is different than in 1950’s or 1980’s where back then 30 years had real life adult responsibilities. My guess is that there were not poppin bottles but were poppin’ their 3rd kid. As we may have more disposable income, we can almost act closer to a 20 year old in terms of socialize and living free. Maybe we are not going to Dream and Ibiza in our 30’s but we still in The Park or Lima every Thursday (shoutout to the DMV folks. I was there for five years).
    Now, in terms of the moscato thing, the educated (bougie, uppity) black folks are good for trying to distinguish themselves from ratcheted folks. To show that ‘we made it” and are more refined, folks will try to start new trends before the hoods get to it and as soon as it is mainstream, we go and bash that same trend. Ladies were sipping on moscato in the club b/c it was the sweet wine that was tolerable and allowed them to look “cultured” Drake hijacked moscato and now those same girls are going to clubs sippin on Pinot or Chardonnay w/ the screw face b/c they truly want to order their moscato but they don’t want to be seen as the groupie girl. Wine Fests were something of a niche thing to do 5 – 10 years ago and now folks turning Lingonore Winery Caribbean Fest into Freaknik.
    Oh yea, the true blog topic. I don’t blog, twitter, instrgram, etc. so I am not maximizing these ol internets. So, with only facebook I like to believe my persona is the same. I don’t have daily facebook statuses and I am not taking photos of my dinner plate. Keep in touch w/ people, statuses for major sporting/current events and that about it. Dang, I really didn’t have much to add to this blog, I guess I just wanted to ramble. Ah well.

    1. lol. Rambling is nice.

      "We can almost act closer to a 20 year old"

      I will never understand why people WANT to. Isn't there a certain amount of being distinguished that comes with age? I would think when I get around thirty I'm going to be happy about myself and what I've done with my life and the reputation I have. I don't understand why people at that age WANT to act like an age where they had absolutely no sense about life. I've never even seen a club before but I don't think it should be such a staple in someone's life they make generic versions of it when they really should be grown feeling proud of themselves. I don't understand the appeal of acting an entire generation younger than you are.

    2. "but we still in The Park or Lima every Thursday (shoutout to the DMV folks"
      Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay……Lima, The Park and Ibiza are the spots……came to Dream before I moved here. It was aight. I looooove the food at Lima. That Civeche is on point.

  9. Most is low-key calling folks out.

    I like to think that my internet persona is most like my real life persona but I'm not as flirty and boisterous in real life. What's really funny is that IRL nobody knows I read so many blogs. I used to think they were just for dweebs so it took me a while to get into it and #lookatmenow "Shhhh. Don't tell nobody." *Pop's voice* Other than that, ooh baby, I like it raw so that's what I try to give.

  10. as a dude who owned and knew every word to gucci mane's catalog from 2008- early 2011 i can be a ratchet when i want to be. one of my current favorite rappers is 2chainz as well. i'm not fooled into believing dude can rap. he's funny to be so i like him. *shrug* if i get judged for that then so be it.

  11. Aww Damn!!!! Now I’m gonna be a Spradley stan. Shit! You went metaphysical on me. I have to read that three times and ponder. Wait. I need some more caffeine. Shit!! I was a philosophy major and graduated with honors and I was really into Kant. And i need more time to process. This. Post. Hold on a sec. Youre married, um, and i respect that. Nshit. But this post made me want to get naked and put it on you.

    1. K. First thing, mind blown. I said that, right? *fans self* ok. I have three online personas. None of them are me completely. All of them are me, except i can’t be all of them at the same time. People can’t handle all of it. Not even my family. I’ve never met a person who can deal with all of it. I’m a boxer. A heaux. A lawyer. A preachers kid. A philosopher. An adrenaline junky. A warrior with super powers. A witch. (Really). A nerd. A peri menopausal woman with no kids who wants to hug every sad black boy, then have sex with him. An argumentative know it all bitch and you cant tell me nothing. Im just getting started.

      See? I need a couple of different matrixes. Don’t judge me.

  12. The wine piece reminded me of a time on Twitter a while back when instead of moscato, rose was hot, when one of the "cool kids" I followed was outraged that Korbel had a rose variety. A bunch of other "cool kids" chimed in and had a huge twitter bash fest about that cheap brand trying to make rose. Some of the more knowlegable tweeters tried to explain that rose was a type of wine, not a brand, but they wouldn't hear any of it lol.

    I think my internet persona is very close to who I am, just maybe with a slightly less effective filter lol. And one of my favorite rappers is French Montana, not because he's a spectacular lyricist, but because he's so unforgivingly ratchet. He's my guilty pleasure.

  13. Is this like codeswitching? I can be ratchet online (see my comments on yesterday's SBM post) and in real life. My friend described me as "sneaky freaky ghetto" Sometimes I pull out of the garage at work, see the sun is still beaming and I throw the top back and put on some T.I. (or if I'm feeling angry, some Pac). I might even Blow the Whistle with Too $hort. And I play it REAL loud to scare the YT people. Can't hang with the big dog, stay on the porch! I don't like Moscato though. I drink Prosecco.

    And with that minimal contribution to today's discussion I return to nursing my head cold. LOL

    My recent post Getting outside the comfort zone

  14. You could compare this to the way white people of a certain social class do things they feel is beneath them to be ironic. And cool. Could mean we’ve arrived to a place of relative ease with our self image where we arent so worried about what THEY think. And i think that is a good thing. Not perfect, but better than the pathetic social climbing flashy fronting.

  15. Meh. People have been doing it forever, they used to call it "slumming". Now slumming has a social media platform & it's "ironically rachet". There have always been people overextending themselves financially to "keep up with the jones'", but now it's cheaper & called "internet thugging/stunting/etc". If Twitter was around 30-40 yrs ago 2 Chainz would have been John Lennon, all posturing pseudo-intellectualistic and ish. It is in our nature to keep up appearances, truly authentic people usually are a little crazy **cough**Yeezy**cough**

    I am probably my most authentic self on Twitter, as I have a tendency to type my thoughts as they come to me. Which is why my twitterfeed is a little…off. In real life I am reserved, I have a watered-down clark kent persona for work, and very few people know what I'm thinking-as I have a way of talking incessantly yet not actually saying anything, kindof like I'm doing now… #IntrovertShrug

  16. I cringed at such a thorough post having the first 50 comments be about Moscato, was kind of a slap in the face. It wasn't just about the Moscato, it could have been any absurd off-topic idea that had little or nothing to do with the article.

  17. CO81 and *insert gov't name* are one in the same. I am different degrees of myself depending on the environment…and I do several things (that don't mix on the surface) very well. That can make me seem a bit all over the place, lol. But, I'm no ratchet…not ever…ironically or otherwise…and I usually pass on entertaining it and allowing it to entertain me. I'm no nerd…I just happen to remember a lot of things I've heard or seen (I probaby don't really care about half of it). Plus, I like moscato…a lot. And Hawaiian Ice Tea. And Mango Mojitos. Sweet, fruity tasting liquor is alright with me. The concept of drinking anything that tastes bad for any reason other than medical reasons is absolutely absurd to me. Then you chase it with something that tastes good? How 'bout you just give me what tastes good, lol…I'll drink that.

    However, my super Christian gfs love The Braxton's, lol…and all other manner of reality TV drama. #ICant

  18. All I got to say is this, although I'm not a wine connoisseur, I like Moscato, Boones Farmes, Arbor Mist, and Canei wine.
    That is all.

  19. And how I am online is a big part of how I am in real life. Blogs and being online give me the platform to say whats on my mind when I'm not in a social setting, and discuss things most of my friends and associates don't really care to discuss. Plus it gives me something to do at work when I'm tired of doing actual work and wanna chillax. I love it!

  20. good post mr. most. i agree in a sense, that more people are using the internet, as an 'safe area' to be more ratchet. i do think that we all need time and spaces to let our collective hair down, and not be so serious, but the levels of braggadocio, of snarkiness, and at times, excessive bluntness and rudeness are levels that would not be seen or tolerated in real life. So while i don't take the internet seriously 90% of the time, including blogs and twitter, i do keep in mind that some really do that this is serrious, i mean so sinsirrre #BlackAlbum that sometimes it's necessary to not say what's directly on my mind, at times.


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