The culture is…hard to understand if you’re not a part of it, which I think is probably true of any sizable social site. And different users probably have different attitudes about it.
Yeah, there’s a lot of memetic trash, because the culture definitely rewards repetition, and I guess the only unifying factor of everyone on Imgur is that we like to look at pictures. But that’s also an advantage in that the community seems to be more diverse than on any given subreddit, or even HN. (Although it definitely skews young, male, white, and progressive.)
It’s kind of nice to be part of a community that’s unabashedly earnest, even if it means getting taken for a ride sometimes. I don’t think there’s no self-awareness, it just doesn’t seem like it from the outside.
For example, take Lassannn. He’s a user who makes up stories for points, and is completely honest about that fact. Some people hate him for that, believing that if you’re posting a story in the first person, it ought to be true. So they started saying “Fuck you, Lassannn” on all of his posts. But now there’s also a sizable cohort of people who love him because he’s a good guy and produces good content, so they post “Fuck you, Lassannn” ironically to make fun of the people who actually hate him. And crucially, you can’t tell the difference if you aren’t aware of the whole story, which has taken place over years. And there are countless stories like this.
For me, Imgur has all those aspects that I loved while growing up on forums in the early 2000s. It also rewards clever puns, remixing, ironic shitposting, even intelligent discussion if you look for it. I’ve learned countless things from people with completely different backgrounds, been exposed to world news I would never have seen otherwise, and been able to reach loads of people with my bad jokes, shitposts, and encyclopedic knowledge of linguistics and trivia. It’s fun, and that’s all that matters.