girl awkwardly smiling in front of computer saying, “Hehe, everyone will laugh at my memes…”

One unforseen consequence of cutting off the internet is that you experience a paradigm shift in how you spend your time. People like to follow the path of least resistance, so if a luxury like reddit meme pages or ASMR is all of a sudden harder to get a hold of, the most sustainable reaction would be to lessen or eliminate the importance of these luxuries in your life. Case in point - I’ve found myself feeling increasingly stupider doing this kind of “off the cuff” rummaging of feeds and pages, and increasingly sticking to my laundry list of music to download and emails to send. Telling someone to have fun is the best way to ensure they won’t have fun.

I’ve had more time to think about the role of memes in my life (image macros, cursed images/screenshots, GIFs, WebMs). I started collecting reaction GIFs in 2014 to have something witty to send to my friends, even though I hardly had any at the time, and the ones I did would never send anything as scandalous as the reactions would imply. The next big push, and the point where I considered this folder a meme collection, was 2017 when I cut my way out of the Apple EcosystemTM and entwined myself in Google’s via the Photos app. They were giving out free cloud storage at the time, and offered creature comforts like file sync and OCR for easy lookup. At about the same time, I had learned how to harness the (so-called) power of Reddit and had just started branching out of normie mode (normie = cute animals, liberal propaganda, lewds).

My sense of humor continued to develop and reached a leveling out during the pandemic, where I found the right mixture of absurd and provocative subreddits (TIHI, cursedimages, okbuddyretard, animenocontext, speedoflobsters, sbubby, ihadastroke, engrish), supplemented of course by my new, more a s c e n d e d friends and the coming of age of my brother. I finally had a small network of people to share memes with; sure, I was kicked out of a group chat at some point (back then when I still saw merit in them), but all in all, reception was positive and bridges were built around shared online experiences.

Going back to this year, the general trend has been to steer away from degeneracy, and in an effort to take the ball and run with it, I deleted the entire folder and shifted my focus to real life. Only in the past few weeks have I delved deep into the abyss of my NextCloud instance to resurrect it. The main impulse for doing so was my expiration of my VPS subscription and the decision to not renew; I had just realized that old backups made their way to the trash bin and that **there was no going back after the cut off date. A large portion of my time thus far has been spent first sifting through 6 months worth of journal/temp files and then coming up with descriptive titles that aren’t just “3iaxo46ndyu41.jpg” for instant retrieval.

Why did I do it? Isn’t this a step back? Well, yes and no. My personality isn’t as tethered to the skinner’s box of social media as it was in 2020, and going back to the opening statement, I don’t see myself falling into old habits (refreshing the same page 30 times out of boredom) any time soon. Hell, I don’t even have a Reddit account, so any memes added these days come from friends and family, who have infinitely better judgment and taste than any algorithm. As for the morals and values that these memes perpetrate, there are a considerable amount I have outgrown and that fall flat, especially in consumerist otaku circles, but in retrospect, this alone was no reason to have gone nuclear. Frankly, some of my favorites are goofy puns and AI generated word vomit that are appropriate for all audiences.

I see a lot of parallels between maintaining a meme gallery and keeping a hedge in the front yard. Sure, a strictly utilitarian person wouldn’t need to decorate his property with something as fickle as life, but not everything needs to be rational. The hedge adds aesthetic value and is a great point of small talk, which itself is not useful, but is the gateway to meaningful conversation. As long as the hedge is trimmed regularly to keep its essence and does not take over any other niches in life besides “square shrubbery” there is merit in keeping one.

square hedge on a bright Sunday morning

Most importantly, and silly metaphors aside, I have fodder for slideshows and videos, so they stay.