It was the hardest we had laughed in years. The entire bunch was completely immobilized, stopped dead in our tracks. Out of commission. It was the type of laughter that you could feel in your abs the next day. It was the type of laughter that makes you forget how to sit in a chair and instead, reduces you to flopping around on the floor like an earthworm. The half-second wind gasps we were able to muscle down between each hysterical scream were no match for the overwhelming and contagious sense of hilarity that had seized control of the room. Every single time I thought it was over I would make eye contact with one of my buddies and we would instantly lose it again. Tears streaming down our bright red faces, crushed Natty Light cans all over the living room, it was some of the most refreshing laughter I can ever remember experiencing. And it just so happened to be the dumbest most mind-numbingly dipshit meme compilation I’ve ever seen. That was the day I realized that dank memes had taken over my life.
I believe the way we are using the Internet is making us stupid. News outlets replacing text-based content with videos have been contributing to a society who is less willing to read. Constant bombardment with pop ups, click bait, and mindless distractions have made us scatter brained and has damaged our ability to focus. And now we’re spending hours and hours every day in a zombie-like state just absent mindedly scrolling through social media and not retaining a damn thing. I personally feel like Twitter has damaged my own focus and reading comprehension. I feel like I’m mining when I’m on Twitter. I feel like I’m sifting through heaps and heaps of nonsense until I find one small snippet that satisfies me for a few seconds, only to then go right back to the pile. It basically goes like this: *Scroll through bullshit, scroll through bullshit, scroll through bullshit*, “AYOOO THERE’S SOMETHING COOL!” *Scroll through more bullshit, scroll through more bullshit*, yada yada yada yada. It’s an endless cycle of lazily turning off my brain, refusing to do anything productive, and taking the path of least resistance to instant gratification.
We are living in an era where unprecedented mass instantaneous communication has become commonplace. Never before in all of human history have ideas and information been able to spread as quickly as they do now. With all of mankind’s knowledge at our fingertips and constant competition for our focus, the perfect shitstorm has formed on social media. It stems from the viral-centric mentality of competing for views and clicks. Quick, cheap, and often repetitive punch lines are now the standard.
With so many glaringly obvious downsides to wasting our time with memes, why is it that we as a generation love them so much? Well I think it’s because young people use social media as essentially an enormous worldwide group chat where inside jokes are king. It’s a sense of humor that an entire generation can be a part of, but the second a corporation tries to get in on the joke or your parents start referencing a meme it is instantly no longer cool. Remember when Hillary Clinton told everyone to “Pokémon Go to the polls”? Oh yeah. Major cringe. Along with their exclusivity, another thing that makes memes so hilarious is that they never stop evolving. They evolve so drastically and so quickly that someone who isn’t in on the original joke would have zero clue as to why you’re laughing at this seemingly nonsensical flim-flam. The third, and most important reason why we adore these memes is because they can come from anything. And I don’t just mean that in a half-assed “oh yeah it’s a really diverse creativity pool” kind of way… no no no. The best memes come way the frikkin frick out in left field. A fifteen second clip of a Burger King employee standing in lettuce? MEME. A gorilla in Cincinnati tried to throttle a toddler to death? HILARIOUS MEME. Literally any given screenshot from an episode of Spongebob Squarepants? ONE WAY TICKET TO MEME CITY BABY! It’s truly amazing how we are able to find humor in just about everything through the network of The International Internet Coalition of Trolls and Meme Enthusiast Worldwide™ (or as I like to call it, TIICOTAMEW).
My genuine curiosity when I decided to write this article was whether or not there is any empirical research data on the effects of long-term meme exposure and nurturing only the short-term attention spans in our brains. And the brief answer to that question is no, not really. I mean yeah, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that reading a book is going to be better exercise for your parietal lobe than watching “Ultimate Try Not To Laugh Dank Spicy Bass Boosted Ear Rape Meme Compilation 2018” on Youtube for the hundredth time. But there isn’t a ton of data that indicates whether or not this behavior is bad for us. Here’s how I feel: Memes aren’t going anywhere. They’re here to stay. For as long as we will have the ability to communicate worldwide, there will always be some wise ass on the Internet making jokes out of things that weren’t originally jokes. They will continue to evolve. They will continue to get more and more absurd. And there will come a day when our generation is no longer in on the punch line.
A part of me thinks social media will be the downfall of the human race, as we know it. A part of me wants to believe that this was all planned by a league of interdimensional shape-shifting reptilian elites in the illuminati to distract us common folk and dumb us down while they slowly drain our natural resources and put mercury in the drinking water. But there’s another part of me that thinks those obnoxious bass-boosted videos are the funniest things in the world and I couldn’t care less. So while I sit here at 4:32 in the morning, dehydrated, exhausted, and covered in Cheeto dust, just through watching yet another Ugandan Knuckles compilation, I find comfort in the fact that millions of other underachieving bros just like me are out there losing their shit laughing like buffoons to the same exact nonsense. I guess if this ships going down, then I’m going down with it.
- Jimmy McCallum (@TheRealBigOrca)