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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Cynical Optimism: LOL @ the internetz

Published: March 20, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

“I studied three hours for a test that just got cancelled. FML.”

Erm, I’m sorry—was that a typo? FM, what?

It wasn’t until a good two weeks ago that I noticed this newfangled internet meme began to inconspicuously trickle into my Facebook newsfeed. Curious, I explored further, and wound up at what is sure to be the source of many future hours of shameless hilarity and procrastination: .

The concept is quite simple, as most internet phenomena tend to be. Step 1- Anonymous posters submit short and embarrassing personal anecdotes. Step 2- Users vote on the juiciest ones, based on their levels of f’edness. Step 3- The most humiliating stories make it to the front page, to the delight of thousands of users laughing at the expense of others’ humiliation. Oh, and what a sidesplitting-good time it is. Some of the stuff that ends up on this site is enough to make you grimace in pain or burst out in convulsive laughter, or both. I guess laughter really must be the best medicine in order for these brave souls to abandon their self-respect to become the laughing stocks of the entire web-browsing populace.

When you stop to think about the broad and often perplexing world of internet humor, however, this particular trend pales in comparison to lol-fads of the past, if we’re judging solely based on their level of weird/quirkiness. In layman’s terms, let’s call this the “WTF?-Factor,” or WTFF.

The WTFF of internet memes are often off the charts—enough to make you question the sanity of the people that started them, as well as your own for finding them so inexplicably funny in the first place. Why, exactly, does an ungrammatical caption beneath a single candid picture of a kitten harvest enough laughter to trigger an entire wave of lolcat-mania? Why must we feel the urge to click the forward button on an email, linking our friends to a viral video of some random dude lip-syncing to Romanian pop music? If we were to share these links with the comedic experts of the past—Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, etc.—would they get the jokes?

Humor is something so subjective that it can never be “seriously” explained (obviously, if I have to explain the joke to you, it’s not funny anymore, now is it?) But once understood, it paints a vivid picture of the age it so wholeheartedly ridicules. That leaves me with one question: what statement does internet-humor make about our generation?

Err…perhaps that’s one best left unanswered. Leave it to future historians to interpret the cultural significance of Engrish phraseology, or “All Your Base Are Belong To Us.” Until then, I’ll just sit back and appreciate the ludicrous products of my beloved web-obsessed generation. We’re a quirky bunch, the lot of us, and it brings joy to my heart to know that the future movers-and-shakers of America come from the same generation of people that contribute to such monumental outlets of intellectual exchange as Let’s just hope that society doesn’t end up as absurd as our bizarre senses of humor, because if it does—FML.