Outlook & Opinions

Internet memes

by Joe Randazzo

At some recent point, bacon became a meme. Bacon. The cured pork product that has been a staple food for hundreds of years was suddenly a fashion accessory for Internet style-mongers. There were odes and T-shirts and cartoons. People taped bacon to their cats and took photos. It was so ubiquitous that I started to hate bacon.

No one should ever have to hate bacon.

What used to be an amusing byproduct of Internet use has mutated into something horrible: an insatiable parasite that impairs its host's judgment, rendering it totally useless. Instead of acting as an organic cultural touchstone, the modern meme -- from LOL, which hasn't been used to signify physical laughter since 1997, to Lolcats -- now sucks the joy out of our interconnectedness. It destroys uniqueness. Once an "enjoyable thing" becomes a "meme," we stop enjoying the thing for its own sake, but consume and regurgitate our enjoyment of it as a symbol of hipness, as if to say: "I am aware of this thing's popularity -- therefore I, too, exist!"

But the short life span of the average meme means it can't imprint itself on the human psyche in any real way. We want instant nostalgia, and what we get is manufactured zeitgeist. The faster memes spread, the more homogenized online conversation becomes, until a few phrases dominate the discourse.

(And if you've never had the unfortunate occasion to hear someone, forgetting that life is not a message board, yell "FAIL!" aloud, you are missing out on an exquisite kind of existential rage.)

Life on the Internet moves too fast. There's no time to let experience meet friction, or to absorb and truly reconstitute information. So slow down, breathe, and appreciate what's real in life.

Joe Randazzo is the editor of the Onion and the founder of the Joe Randazzo Association.

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