For better or for worse: Satirical media and the case of ShitAdelaide

In the Australian media landscape, Instagram account ShitAdelaide is one of a kind.

While the account’s curators happily poke fun at their “poorly formulated political opinions,” they’re also quite ready to name themselves the “custodians of South Aussie greatness”.

And with more than 243 thousand followers and content pouring in from almost every South Australian with an internet connection – to the point where “did you see that thing on ShitAdelaide today?” is a daily conversation starter – it’s a pretty accurate assessment.

Senior Lecturer in Media at the University of Adelaide Dr Kathryn Bowd studies citizen journalism at and says the page’s appeal lies in its “intensely local nature” and the relatability this provides.

“For example, Adelaideans love to complain about local drivers, and ShitAdelaide feeds into this with its videos of poor driving and [pictures] of bad parking.”

Indeed these posts are so popular ShitAdelaide has taken to posting roundups of all the images they receive.

Dr Bowd says one of the positive aspects of the page is how uniquely placed it is to “tap into local knowledge and local icons.”

30-year-old Adelaidean Kieran says ShitAdelaide is “culturally significant” because it “brings out things unique to here”.

Thomas, 22, agrees. “I think it’s funnier than other meme pages and things because you can relate to it and you can go ‘oh I know where that is, that could have been me.’”

But in the social media age where young people are increasingly accessing their news online, ShitAdelaide is also starting to look like more than just a meme account.

From documenting roadworks to wars with local councils and billionaire developers, the ShitAdelaide moderators often act in ways that mimic traditional news outlets, despite (likely) not having the training or internal code of conduct that traditional media professionals would.

“For information that is of local interest but wouldn’t necessarily be considered news in the traditional sense, it’s a great resource,” says Dr Bowd.

“It’s certainly where I often find out about things that have happened here but that aren’t consequential enough to attract conventional news coverage.”

In some cases, they get there before the journalists do.

Thomas recounts that when the power went out at the factory he works for, he and his coworkers used ShitAdelaide to find out the cause – which turned out to be a bus backing into a stobie pole ­– and how many other buildings were affected.

But there’s a definite voyeuristic nature to some of ShitAdelaide’s content – the street fights and drunken rants especially. It’s easy to imagine a police officer making an easy few dozen arrests on Monday morning by scrolling through ShitAdelaide’s weekend rollup.

Dr Bowd suggests this kind of content has the potential to encourage, “recording dangerous acts in the hope of having them posted to the page”

For example, take the guy who jumped to the top of the Rundle Malls Balls to the cheers of his mates. Though the video has since been removed from the ShitAdelaide page (likely for legal reasons as the man was arrested after the video went viral), the original post was liked more than 44,000 times.

And not all posts feature such easy-to-sneer-at protagonists as the incompetent parker or drunken idiot.

As a page that relies so heavily on localised knowledge, “for example the reputation of particular suburbs,” the danger is that “it can represent a form of public shaming,” explains Dr Bowd.

Often the target of this crowd-sourced surveillance machine is those already on the margins.

In between the Farmers Union Iced Coffee memes and wholesome pictures of memorably dressed Adelaideans, ShitAdelaide has a notable track record of posting content which walks the line of making light of mental illness, addiction, or poverty – even posting videos that appear to show mentally ill people experiencing an episode in public.

Jess, 19, and Emma, 27, say that the ubiquitous nature of the page worries them – especially if they’re doing something “embarrassing” in public.

“I was at Henley Square the other day taking a TikTok and I was worried someone would film me doing it,” jokes Jess.

“I mean even now – we’re here spread out [in Rundle Mall] with so much Maccas and someone might take a photo of us.”

But this surveillance relationship isn’t just one-way. Even through the conduit of a curated page like ShitAdelaide, there can be backlash, especially if the person filmed traces it back to you.

Brodie, 20, from Port Lincoln, said when he and a friend were in Adelaide they took a picture for one of ShitAdelaide’s many “dodgy carpark” compilations.

“The owner of the car found the post and started messaging my friend really abusive messages for sending it to [ShitAdelaide].”

Since it’s perfectly legal to film or photograph others in public, ranting at someone via DM seems to be our only recourse when bad or embarrassing behaviour is exposed.

But with the potential risk to people’s reputations and relationships when they are filmed without their consent – especially when mental illness is involved – a more thorough code of conduct deserves some careful thought.

Despite all of this, it remains that ShitAdelaide’s existence is ultimately a testament to our willingness to poke fun at ourselves.

“I’d honestly be honoured to be on ShitAdelaide,” admits Kieran.

Even for something kind of embarrassing?

“Yes.”

Image by Ben Neale