The thing about Bitstrips — an online community in which hundreds of creative souls blossomed over an easy-to-use instant comic editor — was that anybody could use it. I knew of an elderly lady who shone in creating quirky one panel comics. I knew of a mother whose series possessed some sort of class which I was absolutely jealous of. I knew of little children who frequently popped onto the chatbar to simply say “hey” or “u r pretty”, I knew of a teenage boy who could create incredible pieces of art depicting superheroes, I knew of a pretty tween whose ability to shade landscapes with blurred shapes was remarkable. Everybody was different, and yet we all fit in. That was the beauty of Bitstrips.
Perhaps, to you, it sounds as if I’m ridiculously dramatising a simple children’s website, purely because I’m a self-professed drama queen and a sucker for good stories. I know it sounds like a whole sandwich filled with hyperbole and white lies, but really, I do mean it. Bitstrips was a very special website. I signed up in 2013, I believe, when I was in the stage of signing up to virtual worlds and the like. The next year, I finally learnt that the site was more than just an editor in which you could move around characters to create a comic, but it was one in which members shared their work to the world. I’ve never been one to communicate excessively with people I had never met, but I made so many friendships: one in particular being an adorable and sweet girl from Texas that will continue to have my love and friendship forever. I read a myriad of strip-by-strip stories, some of which made me laugh, and others profoundly affecting me. There were a remarkable amount of series that deserved to be published. I began to witness the sheer talent of the people on there. Members had learnt to manipulate the limited use of items and filters (as well as move around features on the character editor) to produce beautiful strips. How could somebody use nothing but a butter knife to create shadow on the left side of a contoured face?
I made my own series, too. I never finished any of these, but it was oddly comforting to spend my nights contemplating a teenage drama whilst washing the dishes, or to lie in bed in early hours of the morning just to create a character style that would be aesthetically pleasing.
Just under four months ago, on the seventh of July, a message popped up on the website reading, “We’re very sorry to announce that Bitstrips.com is going to be closing on July 8, 2016 at 12:00pm ET. We love this incredible, creative community, but can no longer continue operating the site as it is today.” I did know of the reasons. It was something to do with Snapchat’s purchase of Bitmoji, or something. Nonetheless, I refused to accept that the website couldn’t run. I had spent the day doing whatever the July Version of Me had to do, and had logged onto Bitstrips to find people writing my name frantically in the chatbar, and comics being published with social media links in the anticipation of the storm. I was heartbroken. To me, Bitstrips had always been a place where I could feel a little better, and it was all going to be gone. I was able to save my strips and get contact details for a good quarter of my friends list, but it was absolutely depressing. I filmed my last hours on the website; a few pathetic tears lay dormant on my cheeks as everybody wrote, “The End.”
In the weeks following, I tried my hardest to maintain my friendships. I made a Skype account just for my Bitstrips friends: there was no way I was comfortable with giving my personal information to them, but I still wanted to keep in touch. Of course, my life was going on as normal (I’m not going to pretend I went insane for the lack of an online resource, let’s be real!) but there was certainly a void in my heart. An empty space in the shape of my avatar, complete with my bouncy hair, was left there.
Four months down the track, my life is better than ever! However, I do really miss Bitstrips. I miss it a lot. Some days, I’ll have an idea for a series, and then I’ll realise I can’t express it as a comic or anything. I’m still trying my hardest to talk to a handful of my friends from the community. I’m nearing the end of high school, and so I feel genuinely embarrassed to say how much I miss it. But I really do. It is peculiar to think about the immensity of the impact that a comic website could have on me, though it must be thought of.
Dear reader, if there’s anything you can do to help, it’s this. A lovely user has created this petition, which has the potential to gain publicity over the sadness that is the site shutting down. We want Bitstrips back, because it is so important to us. Shoutout to all those members who have watched Bitstrips crumble and die. I want you to know that there is still a chance that we can have the website back, and we can work very hard to ensure we’re not deprived of something we all loved so very much. It’s fun and it’s relaxing and it’s an incredible outlet for bottled-up imagination, and, if it were still up and running, I would have suggested it to anyone.
Because, that’s the thing about Bitstrips. Anybody can use it. ★