You know, back in my day—I was born in 1998, so we’ll say 2018 was my peak—memes were simple. Funny image, text, done. Maybe a screenshot of a Tweet or a Tumblr post. Sharing was easy; just right click, copy, and paste into the chat, or on your page, or whatever. Consuming was easy as well. Just look, read, blow a little bit of air out of your nose, continue on. Your homie sends you a dank meme, you respond with a trite “lol,” and you move on with your life. They cared. You adore that. That’s your homie.
Now if you will permit me to put on my curmudgeon hat for just a little bit, I want to express just how much TikTok and short-form video content has ruined the meme-sharing experience. It started largely with people sending me links to TikToks. Okay, thought I, they’re like really short YouTube videos. I can watch them when I have the chance. They were so rare, too. I think people only ever started sending me links to TikToks in 2021.
But then came the Instagram Reels. Friends, I don’t think you need me to tell you how annoying Instagram Reels are. Instagram seems to love Reels so much that often it will prompt you to make a stationary meme into a Reel by adding some swanky music or whatever. Why? What’s the point of this? Do you want me to burn through more mobile data? Is that the goal here, Instagram?
But it’s more than that. Instagram borrows a lot from the TikTok experience, in that Reels play one after the other after the other after the other. This triggers what I call the Brainrot Protocol. It’s easy to doomscroll; it’s even easier when every piece of content comes with fun music and movement. As a result, it’s also easy to share with your friends every piece of content that tickles your fancy.
And now comes my conundrum. I understand the desire to show your friends something that made you laugh. I welcome it. I love spamming friends with dank memes. But, I don’t know, when I wake up and I see 13 Reels were shared with me by some dude I talked to maybe three times in college, I just lose all desire to accept your gift. You have given me a more effort-intensive meme. Not only do I have to read it to gain the full experience; I have to watch it. I have to listen to it. In order to appreciate this gift you have thrust upon me, I have to drop everything I was doing, and focus intensely on this dead mouse you have placed at my feet. And, my dude, you have given me so many dead mice.
Maybe I’m in the minority, and I’m just not suited for forging modern connections, because my brain isn’t hardwired to accept shortform video content as a sign of affection. I’ve been a curmudgeon since I was 12, after all. But can’t we all agree that the social contract we’ve forged, to drop everything and look at the unimportant nonsense we send each other because we love each other is just distracting? Can’t we, just this once, reject modernity and embrace tradition?
If you’re reading this, and you think, Wait, I usually send Steven a ton of reels, is he talking about me?, no I’m not, darling, I love you, please keep spamming me with unimportant nonsense, it doesn’t break up the flow of my day at all. The rest of you? Cut it out.
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About the Creator
Disillusioned twenty-something, future ghost of a drowned hobo, cryptid prowling abandoned operahouses, theatre scholar, prosewright, playwright, aiming to never work again.
Venmo me @MickTheKnight
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions