Decoding the sometimes bizarre, often hilarious, memes happening today in Millennials’ worlds, and why they matter.
What’s in a meme? We sometimes say that the internet is just a digital playground, complete with cliques, bullies, inside jokes, and games. (Grade school never ends.) Memes are the inside jokes of this constantly buzzing, perpetually creating space—and though some appear and disappear faster than you can blink, others have legs and become a part of the language of young consumers. No matter how long-lasting they are, all can tell us something about Millennial and post-Millennial culture right now. Today we’re continuing our quest to keep you on top of what’s trending, looking at three memes of the moment, and why you should pay attention to each.
I Came Out Tonight to Have a Fun Time and I’m Honestly Feeling So Attacked Right Now
Remember that phrase, because it’s taking over Tumblr. The Know Your Meme post for the trend defines it as “an expression used to sarcastically complain about being criticized or challenged,” a use that gives it a wide berth for creative applications. The original Tumblr post by user chardonnaymami used the sentence two weeks ago in a short dialogue about a virgin Mai Tai that jokingly complained about being corrected. That post has been shared/liked over 70,000 times. Since then, the statement (and variations on it) has been applied to stills from Disney movies, Star Wars scenes, original sketches and dialogues, famous moments in pop culture and history, comics, cartoons, TV shows, and much more. Some posts are accompanied by the question, “has this been done yet?” as users try to find more scenes that “I’m Honestly Feeling So Attacked Right Now” fits into perfectly. A fake Twitter post attributing the statement to Nick Jonas was created, and others have said that the true origins of the meme are RuPaul’s Drag Race, or the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Regardless of where it first came from, the phrase has become a major meme on the platform, and is beginning to spill into other sites and platforms as well.
Why It Matters: I’m Honestly Feeling So Attacked Right Now is the perfect example of an internet-catchphrase that takes off because it invites creative collaboration and participation. Many Millennials online are looking for opportunities to grab onto a trend, and put their own creative spin on it, building on the existing meme and taking it in new directions to show off their own innovation while feeling a part of the larger culture and conversation.
They’re just what the headline says, they’re real, and they’re spectacular. Images of men with their beards beautifully decorated with flowers have been spreading like wildfire online. From Tumblr to Pinterest to Instagram, flower beards are capturing the hearts of Millennials on the internet. While some of the subjects are clearly model-material, the flower beard trend has spread to regular guys, showing off their flower beard selfies on social media. Their popularity on Pinterest indicates that though it might be men who are bedecking their facial hair in flora, women are definitely obsessing over the images, and pushing the meme forward. Tumblr user Will It Beard? became somewhat internet famous for his blog, which consists of little more than photos of various objects (pencils, army toys, straws, flags) stuck into his beard. Back in March of this year, Will It Beard posted a “Beard and Flowers” video and photo due to overwhelming demand from his followers. His picture could be the origin of the meme. Now, flower beards are officially a trend, at least online.
Why It Matters: It’s been said that Millennial men have taken to the bearded look in order to adopt some of the trappings of traditional male masculinity, as they’ve lost the core values of it. But we’ve told marketers in the past to tone down the testosterone for Millennial men, and that this is a group accustomed to blending traditionally masculine concepts with their own current conventions (if not rejecting typical macho expectations completely). They’re generally more comfortable with tongue-in-cheek, nearly self-effacing representation of manliness. Flower Beards might be a silly meme, but they can also serve as inspiration for another take on that advice: don’t be afraid to intertwine the traditionally masculine and feminine together to intrigue this group. You’ll likely catch both male and female Millennials’ attention, and take a healthy step out of the traditional male marketing box.
On July 6th, Jared Leto posts a picture of himself blissfully hugging a tree to Instagram. The internet sees it, and makes it their own. That’s the simple explanation behind the #JaredHugginLeto meme, which takes Leto out of that tree-hugging shot and portrays him (via Photoshop) hugging everything from President Obama’s face to the World Cup trophy to various animals, actors, and musicians. Pictures of Jared Leto hugging things are all over Tumblr, Instagram, and the rest of the internet. Leto himself has wisely embraced the meme, posting some of his favorite takes on #JaredHugginLeto to his own Instagram, along with the hashtag, as a sign of his approval.
Why It Matters: Millennials are not likely to put celebrities on pedestals, and stars’ pictures are up for grabs once put out into the public. Just as Millennials have no issues with brandjacking, they embrace playing with celebrity brands and images, often creating entire personalities for public figures that have little to do with who they are in real life. (“Hey Girl” Ryan Gosling, and “Sad Keanu” are other great examples of this.) In a way this image manipulation is another way for them to put celebrities on their level, but it’s also just plain funny (and right in line with the generation’s surreal sense of humor) to see an Oscar winner hugging a stack of pancakes.