She didn’t set out to make When I Think About You I Text Myself into a black hole for typed-out feelings, but now that it most likely is one, it feels appropriate. “If you’re drunk or emotionally triggered, you can press that button, you can send that message, but it’s still in a void,” she said. “You don’t know if that person’s going to write you back; the unknown is still there. In [my project], it’s kind of the opposite. It’s just you.”
Once one of the most successful contribution-based destination sites on the web, with adaptation rights picked up by Adam Sandler’s production company, Texts From Last Night now has about 150,000 visitors a month (less than 1 percent of what it had at its peak). The posts on the homepage are worse than ever. The promised television show never came to fruition. The merch store redirects to an empty domain. The site’s crown-jewel advertiser in 2010—American Apparel—no longer exists, sunk in part by a texting scandal.
Texts From Last Night is in the process of being archived by the Library of Congress, according to Bator, who says that the property is still popular on Instagram (kind of), and that drunk-text submissions keep coming in: “A lot of people have had a horrific experience or a very funny experience with the medium.”
Yet, going into a new decade, the drunk text is starting to look like a relic from a goofier and less savvy technological epoch. Texts are no longer special—unlimited-data plans make the idea of rationing messages feel absurd. Today, Americans send about 2 trillion texts a year.
Read: How it became normal to ignore texts and emails
This isn’t anyone of drinking age’s first year with a phone. Like so many of the novelties of the hyper-connected age, drunk texts, once mysterious, are now transparent. Roundups of the “worst drunk texts ever,” on sites such as BroBible and Daily Mail, are obviously fake, and more embarrassing because of it. The worst website I have ever seen, Drunk Post Translator, gives sober people the option of typing in a message, selecting a language—“Tipsy,” “Drunk,” “Very Drunk,” or “Smashed”—and watching a perfectly garbled, believable drunk text pop out.
The drunk text feels over, the chosen medium of corny guys who imagine life to be a Will Ferrell movie or a Nelly video or a frat house. If you Google drunk texts and tab over to the image results, you’ll see a parade of screenshots from early iPhones, typically running iOS 4 or 5 . The joke format is unimaginative, as pointless as an image macro on a Facebook News Feed—easy and rude and “haha!” It’s falsely self-deprecating, like Instagram, but in all the wrong ways, taking its humor from things that are genuinely disgusting or feelings that are actually too convoluted for the format. It’s proudly stupid.
Submitting a drunk text for praise or circulation is juvenile, yet doing so anonymously doesn’t even make sense in the current economy of the internet, which values personality and face and the promise of following an unchallenging narrative, created for a consumption style that is hospitable to ads. A drunk text is an uncareful outburst—it’s nothing like a post. In the r/DrunkText subreddit, created in 2012, a thread titled “I need help deciphering a drunk text” has languished for more than a year with zero responses. The text was, “They have stop people but none of them like you,” and I assume it means exactly what the poster wanted it to mean. Something romantic. Or sexy? None of my business! I reached out to them in Reddit’s direct-messaging feature and, unfortunately, they did not respond, probably because, as their profile shows, they never posted anything on Reddit ever again after that incident.