If you're on Facebook, you would have noticed that some of your friends have turned into cartoon characters. If you're not on the world's largest social network, allow me to narrate how I discovered the latest Facebook phenomena.
Two weeks ago, I went through my Facebook news feed and spotted a comic strip starring someone resembling a friend. Sonny (he looked 50 per cent more handsome as a cartoon) was using a ratchet brace to massage his wife's head.
In a dialogue bubble, his cartoon character said, "Nah … sure ok ur migraine … Shiok Kah?" and she replied, "Eh .. Palan Palan Bah…. Ma u pacah kapala sia sudah …. (spoken in Sabah slang which translated meant, 'Please do it slowly. If not you, would break my head.')".
"Now I know what you do at home," I thought. "Great artwork. Must be one of those apps that can turn a photograph into cartoon."
I kept on seeing more and more comic strips starring my friends on Facebook. Nevertheless, I was too bodoh sombong (dumb and proud) to ask what the app was called.
However, during a six-hour drive from Sungai Limau in Kedah to Subang Jaya with a colleague half my age, curiosity got the better of me.
"What's this cartoon thing I'm seeing on Facebook," I asked Michelle Tam, who is in her 20s.
"Bitstrips," she said. Bitstrips, according to its website, is "instant comics starring you and your friends". It allows users to create cartoons (more than 1,000 different cartoon templates to choose from) that look like them. And you can pick different comic scenes and add your punch line in the dialogue bubble.
It was launched in December last year and it became a Facebook craze last month.
To quote @hkityen (Ho Kit Yen who is my Twitter friend), "Hoi! What's with the Bitstrips hype?! That cartoon comic app has been around for some time, now only people discovered it?!"
According to Bitstrips.com, so far it has 20 million unique users, 100 million Bitstrips were shared and five billion Bitstrips viewed.
"Bitstrips is hard to categorise because it's not a game," its CEO Jacob Blackstock told the Baltimore Sun in April.
"It's a new way to express yourself and interact with your friends. Instead of posting the same things as everyone else, you can create something that relates to your life."
Sonny fell in love with Bitstrips a week ago. "It is unique," said the 39-year-old Sabahan in a WhatsApp interview . "We need to get away somewhere and Bitstrips is the 'world' where I can express myself."
Sonny's Bitstrips world is not an alternative universe but an extension of his real life.
For example, after he massaged the head of his wife who had migraine, he created a "ratchet brace" comic strip to exaggerate what had just happened.
He confessed that Bitstrips also add another dimension in his relationship with his 33-year-old wife.
"We make fun of each other (using Bitstrips comic strips) in a humorous way. And our kids enjoy them, too," he said.
On Tuesday, Jacqueline L. Lohindun saw Bitstrips on Facebook and she was curious of what she thought was a game app.
"I had the feeling 'I wanna try this too' since most of the postings came from my friends," said a 30-year-old Kadazandusun from Papar, Sabah, in a WhatsApp interview.
"The cartoon was more Hollywood unlike anime where you have to make it beautiful (which is very tiring). I was totally impressed by it.
"I love the avatar. And I can make comic status of myself and friends anywhere and anytime," added Jacqueline, "even at this moment I am making another Bitstrips".
Bitstrips has also invaded my Twitter timeline. I typed "bitstrips" to search tweets from people I follow and here are the four tweets.
@fazlitaufek (Fazli Taufek): "Bitstrips, Bitstrips everywhere!"
@hafizinfinite (Hafiz Marzukhi): "Discovering the wonders of Bitstrips!"
@vin_ann (Chin Ann): "Everyone is crazy for bitstrips !!"
@ladymissazira (Azira): "Have a lovely weekend, and Happy Deepavali to all! #bitstrips" and she included a Bitstrips comic of her avatar flinging papers into the air.
"I sometimes wonder if people use Bitstrips because their real pictures are so bad ..." tweeted @klubbkiddkl (klubbkidd).
He ain't a fan of the app. Earlier @klubbkiddkl tweeted three steps to blocking Bitstrips on your Facebook.
There are a sizeable number of people who hate the app. Here are three examples from my Twitter timeline.
@prasys (Pradeesh): "Finally found a way to block all those annoying bitstrips in my facebook. Nobody cares about your cartoonish crap."
@hanishahab (Hani O'Shahab): "thankful that my facebook timeline this morning is devoid of wanna-be-funny-but-not-funny bitstrips."
@Leezykrauff (Lola): "Bitstrips where everybody can pretend to be Stan Lee. most of it, not funny at all."
I've a feeling that Bitstrips will be like Draw Something. Remember Draw Something?
It was THE addictive social drawing game you played in your smartphone.
Zynga bought it for US$180 million (S$223 million) and it had to shut it down recently as its popularity plunged.
So far the Bitstrips bug has not bitten me. If it did, I would probably start a political comic strip with dialogue bubbles with real quotes from politicians.