The Internet can be a weird place filled with even weirder people. There are certain corners of the internet that after jumping from link to link you find yourself scared, alone, and quickly trying to escape. Go ahead and click that link…I dare you. But among the weirdness of the Web, a phenomena arose. That phenomena is the Internet joke. Whether it be memes, gifs, or just random sites that evolved into gags, the Internet joke is an example of the Internet bringing all different types of people together—more “together alone” than “alone together.”
Internet jokes date back as far as the web, but I will focus on the gags that I have come across on my time on the Internet. One of the first, and possibly most clever, Internet jokes that I came across was the now infamous Three Wolf Moon shirt. Just a graphic t-shirt on Amazon.com was able to spawn an Internet following. It started in November 2008 when an Amazon reviewer going by the name of B. Govern posted a review of the Three Wolf Moon Shirt. B. Govern’s review was ironic—he talked of how the Three Wolf Moon shirt helped him attract women in Walmart. This review went viral, and it inspired thousands of reviews that were likewise ironic. Govern’s review of the shirt was found helpful by 36,890 people, which essentially means that this ironic post garnered the equivalent of 36,000 Facebook “likes.” Even celebrities supported the mystique of the shirt.
The support and copycatting that one review inspired proved that the Internet connected thousands of different people. From teenagers to George Takei, all were drawn to the humor of the Three Wolf Moon shirt.
Despite the popularity of the Three Wolf Moon review, it was not the first gag of its kind to hit the Web. Four months earlier, a review was posted on Amazon for Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gallon. The top review for this product, voted on by over 20,000 people, is a poem that parodies Poe’s The Raven and describes one’s interactions with Tuscan Whole Milk. Other reviews date back to 2006, comparing the milk to a vintage of wine. These ironic reviews undoubtedly proved to be the inspiration for future Amazon ironic reviews.
Meme Meme Revolution
The next big evolution of the Internet gag came with the emergence of the meme. Although the meme has existed for over a decade, it did not become popular until after 2010. In 2010-2011, the meme became THE joke on the Internet. The first memes to be popular were the “I can has cheezburger” cats, which was a collection of pictures of cats wearing funny things or making faces with gravely misspelled captions. But in 2010-11, the memes were of funny faces captured in movie stills, and the memes often had themes. From my personal experience, the “Fordham Memes” page on Facebook was the most popular. The page had memes from the Fordham experience—highlighting the struggles and complaints that were common among Fordham students, and it also made fun of things that only Fordham students would understand. These themed memes brought a new level of connectivity among Fordham students. So despite the fact that the students might never talk in class, being always glued to the glow of a laptop screen, or never associating with certain students on campus, the students of Fordham almost all had a shared experience to call upon, and that was Fordham memes. Each student knew the meaning of the meme, and as such could relate to what other students were posting.
It seemed that each school/community had come up with its own Meme page; thus, memes were spread across Internet. One would be hard pressed to find a person who didn’t know who “Scumbag Steve” was or who the “Revenge Dad” was. Memes were made for every situation, and for every event…even if they were not the most appropriate. The meme had become a worldwide language. The Web extended beyond borders, and the Web meme was international symbol. There were memes that made fun of childhood movies. In essence, the meme was a step further in bringing the people of the Internet together. From 2010 on, the meme ruled the Internet, until in 2012-2013 a new and more complicated reply caught the eye of Internet users.
The Next Steps
Humans are always moving forward. We look ahead to the next step as soon as we reach the current one. As such, photography was invented, and by the turn of the twentieth century there was the motion picture. The same progression essentially happened with Internet fads. First there was the meme, which had a still picture with lettering. What came next was the Gif. The Gif is sample of video without noise that plays on a continuous loop—pretty much memes taken to the next level.
The Gif is now ubiquitous on the Web. The Gif can simply illustrate a funny reaction or can be informative. It is fair to say that the Gif and the meme serve the same purpose, but the Gif has much more versatility. This versatility led to an expansion that dwarves what the meme had accomplished. Although any person could create their own meme, Gifs are created from any clip of video—leading to thousands of gifs being available for almost any interaction that can be thought up.
Gifs have led to websites devoted entirely to their image. Tumblr was one of the first websites to incorporate the Gif as its main form of media, but what caused the Gif revolution among Generation Y was Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed simply uses collections of Gifs to convey stories with one to two sentence captions. Sometimes the stories are actual news, but most of the stories are more like this. These simple stories that are mainly focused on the images more so than the words have made Buzzfeed insanely popular. The Gif holds the same connective power that the meme does. By looking at these articles, people relate their shared experiences and feel more a part of the group, thus creating more of a “Together Alone” feeling. Buzzfeed, however is not without its critics. The main argument against Buzzfeed is that it is not real journalism; instead, it capitalizes on Gifs and other images so that writing no longer becomes essential. Some are afraid that it is the future of journalism, and that writing will die out. But right now, Buzzfeed is a collection of lists and stories that helps people feel connected, and I fail to see how that isn’t a good thing.
What would an exposé on Internet gags be without a little highlight of some of the Web’s most bizarre jokes? As I mentioned before, the Internet can be home to some pretty strange folks. But sometimes these crazy posts tickle the funny bone. One in particular that I could not get enough of is this collection of pictures of North Korea’s late leader and greatest golfer of all time. It amazes me that someone spends the time to collect pictures of a dictator inspecting things. In a way, I am inspired by it. Also there is no shortage of pictures of historical figures in utmost badassery. I truly want to know who thinks of these things so I can shake their hand and simultaneously remember to tell my future children to stay as far away from people like that as humanly possible. In all, the Internet is where many gags have been birthed. These jokes develop and go viral, giving the whole world something to relate to, and all I have to say is keep it up.