Memes and Truth

“Meme formats — from this week’s American Chopper dialectic model to the ‘Exploding Brain’, ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ and ‘Tag Yourself’ templates — are by their very nature iterative and quotable. That is how the meme functions, through reference to the original context and the memes that have gone before, coupled with creative remixing to speak to a particular audience or topic or moment. Each new instance of a meme is thereby automatically familiar and recognisable. The format carries a meta-message to the audience: “This is familiar, not weird.” And the audience is pre-prepared to know how to react to this: you like, you “haha” emoji, and you tag your friends in the comments.

The format acts as a kind of Trojan Horse, then, for sharing difficult feelings — because the format pre-primes the audience to respond in a hospitable mode. There isn’t that moment of feeling stuck about how to respond to your friend’s big emotional disclosure, because she hasn’t made the big statement quite directly, but through irony and cultural quotation — distanced through memes typically using stock photography (as Leigh Alexander notes) rather than anything as gauche as a picture of oneself. This enables you the viewer to sidestep the full intensity of it in your response, should you choose (but still, crucially, to respond). And also to DM your friend and ask, “Hey, are you alright?” and cut to the realtalk should you so choose, too.

So a space is created, to talk about being stressed and overwhelmed and unsure of the meaning of anything we do — a space which is, I believe, more open than it has been in the past. As the mod of UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens says, this “gets the conversation going, as I don’t think it would have even started without it.”

And this is how memes help people speak truths.”


Voodoo Cognitive Ability

“Much of the class hatred in America stems from the suspicions of the intelligentsia that plumbers and mechanics are using their voodoo cognitive ability of staring at 3-D physical objects and somehow understanding why they are broken to overcharge them for repairs. Thus it’s only fair, America’s white-collar managers assume, that they export factory jobs to lower-paid China so that they can afford to throw manufactured junk away when it breaks and buy new junk rather than have to subject themselves to the humiliation of admitting to educationally inferior American repairmen that they don’t understand what is wrong with their own gizmos.”


Do Things That Don’t Scale

“The need to do something unscalably laborious to get started is so nearly universal that it might be a good idea to stop thinking of startup ideas as scalars. Instead we should try thinking of them as pairs of what you’re going to build, plus the unscalable thing(s) you’re going to do initially to get the company going.

It could be interesting to start viewing startup ideas this way, because now that there are two components you can try to be imaginative about the second as well as the first. But in most cases the second component will be what it usually is—recruit users manually and give them an overwhelmingly good experience—and the main benefit of treating startups as vectors will be to remind founders they need to work hard in two dimensions. [12]

In the best case, both components of the vector contribute to your company’s DNA: the unscalable things you have to do to get started are not merely a necessary evil, but change the company permanently for the better. If you have to be aggressive about user acquisition when you’re small, you’ll probably still be aggressive when you’re big. If you have to manufacture your own hardware, or use your software on users’s behalf, you’ll learn things you couldn’t have learned otherwise. And most importantly, if you have to work hard to delight users when you only have a handful of them, you’ll keep doing it when you have a lot.”