Sick of anything new lately?
You know what I mean: Our technologies of information-spreading are superb at disseminating every possible fad, trend, and cute-animal video. In fact they are unstoppable. And sometimes, that’s the problem.
I regularly reach a point, after being confronted with the millionth variation of some formerly enjoyable meme, of wanting to scream “Enough already!” For instance, I wish I had the power to call for a full moratorium on any and all unlikely things made of Legos.
It’s not just me, as I confirmed when I asked a handful of highly savvy web/culture-consumers and creators what moratoria they would issue. The answers varied wildly, and in fascinating ways — from being fed up with Google Glass haters or weary of tricky “subtweets,” to a wish for the end to such established tropes as the hashtag or the cat video.
Details follow, but first I invite you readers to think this one over: What makes you wish you had the power to Just Make It Stop? Here’s how my panel of experts replied:
Josh Rubin and Evan Orensten, founders of the popular Cool Hunting site, offered a neat summation of just how wide-ranging the possibilities are. Orensten cited the cronut, but conceded that it’s hard to blame the uber-trendiness of this New York pastry fad solely on the Web. Then Rubin went all-out in the other direction and pleaded for an end to what is arguably the backbone of the Internet — cat videos. “I believe these videos are a medium for terrorist communications, and silly internet pedestrians are sharing them blindly,” he suggested. “That's probably a theory best left unpublished for fear that I'm right and will disappear from the planet for sharing the truth. Can I just say that I've had enough Internet cat videos??” (No, Josh, you can’t just say that. But if you do disappear, at least we’ll all know the shocking truth.)
Ann Shoket, editor-in-chief of Seventeen, went after a similarly huge target: “Hashtags are the new AOL Keyword, as far as I'm concerned.” That’s #harsh! Then she added: “But that seems so obvi. Actually, I'm sick of Obvi, Obvs, Adorbs, Whatevs … basically any word that doesn’t need to be shortened. It's now the slang equivalent of ‘Da Bomb.’” This made me want to go back and time and AOL Keyword “da bomb.” That would be adorbs.
Jason Kottke, proprietor of the widely known blog Kottke.org, pointed to a more esoteric Twitter behavior: topical subtweeting. Basically this refers to tweets that reference a specific subject — without a link or other contextual explanation. “It's designed to exclude,” he explains, “and it takes a lot of effort to keep up with what everyone is referencing.” Recently, for instance, a tweet to the effect that men shouldn’t wear short pants set of a slew of context-free subtweets about shorts. “Someone who didn't see the initial tweet had to be like, what the actual hell is going on?” Kottke stopped short of calling for a full moratorium, since a good subtweet can be as enjoyable as any inside joke — so call this one a moratorium on bad subtweets.
Grace Bonney, founder of the tastemaking Design*Sponge, answered emphatically: “TOP KNOT CULTURE.” This is an interesting example of how the online world overlaps with and amplifies physical-world trends — and sends them hurtling toward moratorium territory. “I'm so over the chambray shirt + wafty girl in a top knot thing,” Bonney continued. “Have a sandwich, let your hair down, be real.”
Choire Sicha, co-founder of The Awl, pointed to a different variety of aesthetic pet peeve: overdesigned Web publications — “fancy, highfalutin story layout, when blogs pretend they're glossy magazines.” Sure, he added, some have produced impressive multimedia stories. But even a great feature-length story that’s overdesigned can be rendered impossible to read, especially on a mobile device. “Also,” he continued, “I don't need pull quotes as a design element. It's the Internet! I'm scrollin' here, people. It's not 1987, Omni magazine folded a long time ago, and I just wanna read some words and maybe look at a couple cool pictures while I do so.”
And just to come full circle, Ben Huh, mastermind of the I Can Has Cheezburger empire that has done so much to propagate the cat-centric communication that Josh Rubin finds troubling, calls for a moratorium on a specific strain of tech negativity: “I'd love for people to stop hating on Google Glass,” he said. “Yes, it's early. Yes, it's dorky. Yes, someone could take a picture of you without you knowing. But didn't we JUST go through this when cameras were being added to phones? It's techno hipsterism to hate something, before you even try it, because everyone is paying attention to it.”
So there you have it. Would these “enough already!” suggestions make the Web, and the world, a better place? What would your moratorium of choice be? The Internet wants to know what you are sick of. In fact, if we try hard enough, we can “enough already!” the next hot meme before it even takes off. AOL Keyword: Moratorium.