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:
cannot get enough of the #sf hellscape genre tweet https://t.co/UKcxcIClTj— d a n a | mastodon: [email protected] (@figmentspot) May 20, 2023
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."
more #sf hellscape pic.twitter.com/Zo4cS0rtWX— d a n a | mastodon: [email protected] (@figmentspot) May 20, 2023
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 recent pics from a walk from Duboce Triangle to Upper Haight in the hellscape that is San Francisco. Can you believe the flowers were just like right there next to the sidewalk, some of them even taking up space on the sidewalk. Ugh. Definitely don't move here pic.twitter.com/mIP9SvU7zJ— curt (@quitecurt) May 15, 2023
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.)
HELLSCAPE! DOOM SPIRAL! #ThatsFentalife! https://t.co/9qaJyc1NHF— Tim Wayne @[email protected] (@Timmy_in_SF) May 20, 2023
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.
Lunch time in a #SanFrancisco hellscape pic.twitter.com/SNrmJmn0tx— tree (@treekisser) May 14, 2023
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.
“I live at the Fairmont and have all my meals prepared by my private chef” genre— David Wei Wen Young (@stuffonfire) May 20, 2023
Other observations are more nuanced—suggesting that maybe two realities of San Francisco could exist simultaneously ...
And then there are a few accelerationists, who are approaching the whole affair with a sense of detached and nihilistic pragmatism.
can all the people fleeing the SF hellscape hurry up? my lease is up at the end of July and I need those dying city rents— CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL (@HiroAntag) May 19, 2023
Christina Campodonico can be reached at [email protected]