What is Bitstrips, and why is it taking over your newsfeed?

Written by Madeline Kohlberg. Media by James Menk.

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Screen-shot of Bitstrips App taken from play.google.com. By James Menk

Facebookers on that eternal quest to sum up all their emotions in a single picture, rejoice!  No longer do you have to hunt around to find the perfect emoticon, or the perfect quote to convey how your day is going.  Instead, you can choose from one of the thousands of emojis that are now at your disposal, making newsfeeds look like they were attacked by an amateur user of Microsoft Paint.

Bitstrips, available and hugely popular in both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store, is a free mobile app with more than ten million monthly users.  Their website boasts that you can “put your friends in hilarious comics where anything can happen [and] is a more fun and visual way to communicate with friends.”  It’s a chance to create avatars of yourself and your friends, and to place them in comics that may or may not show what’s really going on in your life.  So, essentially, cartoon creation for the Photoshop-challenged.

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Screen-shot of Bitstrips app on Facebook. Taken by James Menk.


Creating avatars is easily done, and you’re given all of the typical options for features.  Not only can you choose eye color and skin tone, but you’re also faced with the unfortunate choice of whether or not you want your little character to pick their nose.  Once you’ve taken your avatar and made him or her absolutely perfect, you can choose one of thousands of scenes to put him or her in, and those scenes are updated daily.  And you can even create avatars for your friends, and put them into scenes with you.  Slap on a caption and you have the perfect little cartoon to share with as many people you choose.
And Bitstrips isn’t just for Facebook.  Twitter users are also experiencing these cartoons, and expressing rather mixed reactions.  Ranging from loving the Bitstrips to expressing intense relief once the comics are blocked, it’s obvious that the pictures from this app are certainly making their mark on the world of social media.

Then again, Bitstrips’ mobile app doesn’t exactly have the best reviews.  Apparently, it is extremely difficult to get the app to work properly; the eleven thousand reviews that it has in Apple’s App Store has earned it a whopping rating of 1.5 stars out of 5.  That being said, if you only want to use It on Facebook, you’re completely golden.  Create little cartoon characters to your heart’s content.

I personally am struggling to see the point of these Bitstrips, and I’m not the only one.  Luckily, there is an option to hide all of the cartoons from your news feed; all you have to do is find a post with a Bitstrips cartoon in it, click the arrow in the corner, and select “Hide all from Bitstrips.”

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Screen-shot of personal Facebook App center. Taken by James Menk.


These little cartoons have been around since 2011, but they didn’t gain such intense popularity until they expanded beyond just Facebook and created their mobile app.  While we already know that the mobile app never seems to work anyway, the fact that the public became aware of the existence of Bitstrips suddenly made their popularity explode.  And even when people dislike the cartoons, every time someone Tweets a generalized complaint or posts a Facebook update, that’s free advertising for them.  So, I think it’s safe to say that these Bitstrips cartoons are here to stay, at least for a while.

As one without a social media profile of any description, I can’t help but think how impersonal these cartoons really are.  There is something lost when you can’t just communicate with your friends; you really have to create a little cartoon for it instead?  What is the point of that?  Whatever happened to just chatting about the interesting parts of your day?



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