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They love San Francisco. So why are they calling the city a ‘hellscape’?

A typical photo in the "SF hellscape" meme shows people enjoying a beautiful day at Dolores Park. | Ahmet Karaman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It's played like a broken record over the last couple months. San Francisco is supposedly circling the drain, caught in an irreversible "doom loop." And in recent weeks, a new descriptor of the City by the Bay has taken hold on Twitter: "hellscape."

However, many of the locals throwing the term around seem to be using it sarcastically—deploying the language of internet memes to clap back at those who say SF has reached a post-apocalyptic tipping point.

In a typical "San Francisco is a hellscape" tweet, a Twitter user will use words to declare that the city is in hopeless disarray while posting accompanying photos or video that suggests the exact opposite.

Local journalist Matt Charnock's oft-quoted tweet is a great example of the format:

Some post pictures of pretty flowers, while others lean into scenic views of the bay or the city's beloved parks and pair the pic with an ironic warning, like "Don't move here" or "Nobody goes outside."

Screenshot of a typical 'SF hellscape' Twitter post. | The Standard Staff

Or as one Twitter user described the genre: "It’s always 'How could you live anywhere else?' and then: 1) a photo from pac heights or dolores park on a sunny day, or 2) a photo of a half-naked man playing a ukulele on a unicycle with a parrot on his shoulder."

Some even poked fun at a series of snarky, anti-fentanyl ads created by the political group TogetherSF Action. The ads, which carried the sardonic campaign slogan "That's Fentalife!" recently made waves in the city. (Editor’s note: Michael Moritz, a general partner at Sequoia Capital who finances The Standard, has provided funding to the 501c3 nonprofit TogetherSF and its political arm, TogetherSF Action. He is not involved in editorial decisions at The Standard.)

The cheery—and cheeky—tweeters say that the media has taken the SF doom loop narrative too far (sorry!) and that the reality of living in the city is not nearly so gloomy.

Of course, Twitter being Twitter, there are plenty of folks who disagree—insisting that this genre of tweet is often naive and obtuse or coming from a place of privilege.

Other observations are more nuanced—suggesting that maybe two realities of San Francisco could exist simultaneously ...

Screenshot of a reply to a 'hellscape' tweet. | The Standard Staff

And then there are a few accelerationists, who are approaching the whole affair with a sense of detached and nihilistic pragmatism.

Christina Campodonico can be reached at