"What People Think I Do/What I Really Do" comics started popping up on my Facebook newsfeed not too long ago. Knowyourmeme.com tells me the first one was created by Garnet Hertz about being a contemporary artist, and uploaded onto his Facebook page on February 2nd, 2012.
A certain self-consciousness/self-awareness crept in as more obscure professions, roles, people and fictional characters followed. Wordpress Consultant. Crossfitter. Affliliate Marketer. Eeyore. Nicolas Cage. Analrapist (a reference to David Cross's character in Arrested Development).
Soon the only way to stand out was to take people completely by surprise.
And then came this.
Like the inverse of a wizard calling something into existence by naming it, as soon as I saw these last two comics, the meme struck me as old and tired. Even though I'd found these things amusing and interesting enough to click on them a mere week before. But when someone kills something forcefully and definitively, it's done, like Eminem did to Moby and techno music in Without Me:
And Moby, you can get stomped by Obie
You thirty six year old bald headed fag, blow me
You don't know me, you're too old
Let it go, it's over, nobody listens to techno
And that was it for that.
In less than a month What I Do comics came into being, staked out some prime real estate on the fluid digital turf of Facebook, and then became as passe as the previous meme, Shit X Says. Which, according to Readwriteweb.com, began on January 4th, 2012, and expired approximately… God, I can't even remember the last time anyone posted one of those moldy old things.
These variations on the theme are perhaps the digital age equivalent of people doing impressions of Saturday Night Live (or other popular sketch) characters centred on repeated catchphrases. The vast majority of people simply posted the most relevant What I Do comic on their wall, but more people created their own version, than say, created their own sketches involving the Church Lady, back in 1987.
New memes will continue to spring up, thrust themselves into our collective attention and die of old age. Scads of people are trying to come up with the next one right now. We spend however many hours a day staring at these little glowing screens, it's natural that our creativity will continue to apply itself in this way, no matter how meagre the rewards, no matter that our creations are bound to be reproduced, distorted, mutated, mocked and eventually tied up to chairs and shot in the head.
But there's always the hope a few memes will win the longevity of those spoofs of motivational posters, pioneered by Despair.com.