Storm Area 51 and the Rise of Depression Memes – Wisecrack Vlog


What’s up guys? Jared again. Everyone’s been talking about it. Every message board, every discord server,
every major news publication. We’ve even dipped our toes in on Culture
Binge. You’ve probably heard of the Storm Area
51 Facebook Event, in which millions of net nerds ironically vowed to Naruto run their
way into Area 51 on September 20th so they can finally “see dem aliens.” Now this is funny for a variety of reasons-
there’s nothing quite so satisfying as imagining some general at the Pentagon being briefed
on what a group of Kyles is. But it’s also a dark joke about gleefully
signing up for, what is essentially a suicide mission. Every 5 seconds a new meme pops up on the
Facebook event ironically strategizing their entrance, taking inventory of vehicles and
infantry and, of course, coyly commenting how people’s commitment to irony may outweigh
their desire to live. It’s this last class of memes that’s got
us thinking about a popular sub genre of memes dominating the land of shitposting: Depression
memes. Whether it’s people identifying with Bart
Simpson as literally nothing hits him with a wave of incredible sadness or a young boy
being visited by Teletubbies labeled anxiety, depression, loneliness, and overthinking,
depression memes seem to be millenials and Gen Zers new form of free therapy. But the more we thought about it, the more
we thought that maybe there’s something else to it, that maybe depression memes can
be considered the most modern development of a certain philosophical and psychological
sentiment described over 150 years ago in what is considered one of the first existentialist
stories. So welcome to this Wisecrack Vlog on Depression
Memes. And for the love of god don’t try to storm
area 51. Please. But if you do, send me pics of dem aliens. So what is a shitpost? There are a bunch of definitions out there
that often include the idea that they’re deliberately unproductive to online conversation,
that they exist for their own sake, and/or are made hastily and in poor quality. But the definition we found most insightful
comes from writer Gustavo Turner in Surface magazine: “What is a shitpost if not a pointless,
carnivalesque attack against meaning itself? Like every aesthetic that draws from the absurd
(Dada, surrealism, situationism, punk), shitposting is ultimately a cry of despair against impending
disaster.” While Turner is apt in likening the shitpost
to various absurdist art movements, we instead find a very specific flavor of existentialism
in the depression meme. It’s our contention that this phenomenon
of people posting memes about their despair is an extension of a philosophical and psychological
sentiment immortalized by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella “Notes from Underground.” Or more simply, the titular Underground Man
is functionally a 19th century proto-shitposter. To find out what we’re talking about, we’re
gonna have to dive in to a little recap of the book. It portrays the curmudgeonly musings of The
Underground Man, a tortured recluse who reminisces about a time he almost had an authentic connection
with another human. It’s starts off with him proclaiming that
“he is sick.” Not because he’s suffering from any physical
ailments, but rather from “hyperconsciousness,” or an extreme debilitating commitment to rationality. The first part of the book depicts his stream
of consciousness as he weaves an intricate labyrinth of arguments about topics like reason,
freedom, and European Utopianism before recounting an unpleasant interaction with his old schoolmate
Zverkov. He eventually meets a prostitute named Liza,
who he tries to “redeem” by telling her to change her ways. She’s able to get him to open up for a little
while, but he quickly turns back into an asshole and tries to humiliate her. As she leaves, he immediately regrets his
behavior and runs after her, but she’s long gone. The Underground Man has remained supremely
relevant over time. Dostoevsky’s metaphor of “the underground”
was a major development in modern literature and continues to be referenced as an embodiment
of rebellion against traditional value systems. Which is all well and good, but what does
this extremely lonely and extremely miserable man have to do with people on the internet
joking about the disposability of their lives via Area 51 memes? We think that the state of despair propagated
by depression memes overlaps with the sentiment of the Underground Man’s in four key ways: 1. Inaction. Both depression memes and the Underground
Man emphasize despair over action. The point of posting a meme like the cat in
the hat with the text “millennials and get z’s willingness to die” sneaking up on
a kid standing in for “Area 51 thinking this is a joke” isn’t to inspire the masses
to get off their computer and help Millennials or Gen Zers by pushing for economic reform
or greater public mental health options. These memes are often born out of reflecting
on what seems like an impossible, hopeless situation with no particular orientation towards
doing anything about it. The meme only offers a sense of identification
with hopelessness. The futility of action is key. Likewise, the much of the Underground Man’s
deep unhappiness is due to what he calls “Hyperconsciousness”- or a paralyzing sense of awareness. He claims to be so aware that he sees both
sides of any argument, so instead of choosing a side or defining himself through any meaningful
action, he does nothing. He calls this “conscious inertia.” “It was not only that I could not become
spiteful, I did not know how to become anything: neither spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal
nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner,
taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot
become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything.” Like our melancholy hero, depression memes
are defined by a similar kind of inertia- a feeling of hopeless paralysis. 2. Like a good shitpost, The Underground Man
is kind of a troll. When he visits his old friend Zverkov, he
KNOWS that he and his friends don’t like him, but tags along to a party anyway and
acts like a drunken fool just to spread the misery around. Similarly, a depression shitpost looks not
only to express despair, but pervert the sunny optimism of traditional social media posts. If most people on Instagram are curating their
social media personas to project an image of a perfect life with attractive, successful,
and supportive friends, a depression meme looks to bring the grimy underbelly of feelings
to the forefront. Think you’re accumulating cultural capital
by posting about your sweet beachfront vacation spot with your sexy rich family? Fuck you. I eat depression for breakfast. 3. Like The Underground Man, a Depression Meme
is a paradox. Part of what has made the psychological profile
of the Underground Man so interesting and enduring is that he is constantly contradicting
himself. He says he loves being isolated, yet he yearns
for human connection. Similarly, a depression meme is a cry for
help, yet a resignation to hopelessness. The Underground Man looks down on normal people
like Liza and Zverkov, yet envies them, not unlike how a depression meme is a condemnation
of normie-dom, yet a desire to live a life like theirs. Finally, the Underground Man suffers, but
takes pleasure in it. And of course- people make depression memes
for the lulz. Why, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness. Though I did lay it down at the beginning
that consciousness is the greatest misfortune for man, yet I know man prizes it and would
not give it up for any satisfaction. 4. Finally, both the Underground Man and shitposting
represent a rejection of optimistic political ideals. The Underground Man spends a fair amount of
time refuting ideas put forward by Nikolai Chernyshvsky’s image of a utopia built out
of a devotion to reason that he referred to as “The Crystal Palace” in his work “What
is to be Done?” Similarly, depressing memes are often a reaction
to the post-Cold War 90s- a decade built on the promise of a better world, but, to many,
that didn’t happen and now we only look forward to “sunny” possibilities like
climate catastrophes, war with Iran, and Silicon Valley ruining everything under the guise
of “disruption.” Like the Underground Man, Millennials and
Gen Zers have grown up with the promise of a better future, only to be hit with sobering
realities that that has made us… depressed. As such, depression memes will often co-opt
positive elements of popular culture and impose sad realities on them via text. In doing so, it comments on the failure of
these images to deliver any actual happiness, and the lie of positivity that they perpetuated. So there you have it- The Underground man
is very much alive in the ethos of depression memes on the internet. But I want to emphasize here that depression
and other mental illnesses are a very serious thing, and while some may find levity in these
kinds of things, it’s not cathartic for everyone. For what it’s worth, I always remind myself
of the book’s end, where the Underground Man deeply regrets rejecting human companionship. Yes, the state of things might be dismal and
derailing meaning and trolling might give us the necessary dopamine hit to get through
the day, but it’s important that we don’t give up an incredibly important part of a
healthy psyche: human connection. And I just wanna end this vlog with a quote
from the text that will undeniably speak to anyone who’s ever posted a depression meme: “For we are all divorced from life, we are
all cripples, every one of us, more or less. We are so divorced from it that we feel at
once a sort of loathing for real life, and so cannot bear to be reminded of it. Why, we have come almost to look upon real
life as an effort, almost as hard work, and we are all privately agreed that it is better
in books.” Thanks to all of our patrons who support the
channel and our podcasts. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button

About the author

Comments

  1. Hey Wisecrack, Taran here.
    I noticed you've been censoring written instances of "shit" in your videos!
    Did you know that this can be done automatically? get the "advanced profanity filter" extension for google chrome. U WELCOME

  2. Depression memes?

    Noobs, trans memes are where it's at!

    It's depression wrapped with being disinherited by the identity society and family and friends have labeled you since birth, while having to discover who you really are in light of it all!

    But seriously, depression sucks no matter who, where, what you are, or no matter what you have.

    We need to stop judging each other based on afflictions, and be more compassionate to each other and OURSELVES.

    OF COURSE EASIER SAID…

  3. Moral of the the story:

    Hit that like button and be sure to subscribe.

    All but sure to use promo code “WiseCrack” at wix to start your own website today.

  4. Area 51 is organized by posadists in finding technology in enchaining socialism with post scarcity economics

  5. And that is why Osamu Dazai's "No Longer Human" has caught my attention. I think a lot like him, like I'm no longer existing even when alive and life now seems empty and shallow. And the fact that the meteorite hitting Earth gave me relief, and most of my friends too, this just proves how Danganronpa and the Persona franchise philosophies are so legit, especially for 90's and 2000's kids.

  6. Honestly nothing depresses me quite like every youtuber I follow now having to have self read ads in their crap. Thus completely negating my youtube red subscription that was largely there to avoid ads without stealing as much money as an ad blocker and reminding me every few minutes how Youtube is completely failing to properly operate as a healthy platform because of it's algorithm bullshit.

  7. "… its better in books." As in the only worlds we care to live in are the ones we create ourselves. Real life is boring, and the only reason to actually continue to reside in it is to experience the infinite imaginative, and fantastical worlds we create for ourselves and each other.

  8. What is the movie they are using for the background of "Notes From Underground" The only direct adaptation I'm seeing is from 1995. Is it the 1981 Argentinian adaptation?

  9. It's the resurgence of Dadism, in the face of problems out group psyche sees as insurmountable. Just this time everyone's in on it.

  10. i did not want to be born and i cannot make enough money or have the time to get the resources i need for survival

  11. I call it "wanting attention".

    But I suppose you're explaination works too….

    Except for trolls, the leeches of the present; so once again, wanting attention. 🙂

  12. They are not aliens. It’s actually humans from the future. This is also how and why the helicopter with the officers showed up on the USA Nimitz after the Nimitz incident right after the incident took place and why they collected all the evidence. A select few in our government knew the incident was going to happen before it actually did. This is also why ‘aliens’ never make ‘contact’. They risk altering the future and themselves right out of existence. This is also why UFO’s are often seen over volcanoes and military installations. They are protecting and repairing the planet they too live on. They probably do look like the typical aliens often seen. That is what we evolve into. Just a theory. Isn’t that just as plausible as life visiting from another solar system? In less than a hundred years we went from riding horses to flying through space. Image the technology 1,000 years from today.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.space.com/amp/40716-time-travel-science-fiction-reality.html

  13. I wish I could like this video more than once…

    I think I might have to read that book, the excerpts seems to put into words how I feel about society and my life in general.

  14. The underground man is about a lonely neckbeard crying in his basement about how much smarter he is than everyone else.
    Its basically incel the book.

  15. Nihilistic humour, Gen Z hopumour, Depression memes, call it what you will
    It's still more fun than giving a shit ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  16. I've done a lot of comments hoping for a Dada/Shitposting video, and you've outdone my expectations. I really like the angle you took, although you could have mentioned that getting millions of people onboard to Storm Area 51 is basically halfway to a General Strike and imo "don't go to work, let's end capitalism" is a far easier sell.

  17. This girl liked me back in 7th grade so much that she carved my initials into her arm with a knife. Not sure what happened to her.

  18. I reject the notion that Millennials and Gen Z are just a bunch of depressed, inert do-nothings. Yes, we absolutely are depressed and anxious, but that's because we've been let down by the empty promises, societal bungles, and financial failures of previous generations. We're working under dire circumstances, and we know the outlook is grim. However, we are not inert. We are incredibly motivated and politically plugged in, and if you look at the amount of cultural and technological shift in just the last ten years, you'd see how fast and hard we're pushing for change. I think we're allowed a minute to poke fun at our neuroses while simultaneously campaigning for nationwide access to mental health services for everyone, free at the point of service.

  19. Well to be fair life sucks, I'd seriously rather be dead than alive and joking about it makes it a little bit better I guess.

  20. Something has to change. Undeniable dilemma. Boredom's not a burden, anyone should bare. Constant, overstimulation numbs me. But I will not want you, any other way. -Tool

  21. that moment when you realise that millions feel exactly like you do but your depression continues to make you think you're alone….

  22. Pretty click-baity wouldn't you say? I thought this was going to be primarily about the Area 51 raid, but 90% was about depressing memes

  23. And to anyone out there dealing with depression I want you to know that you are not alone and you are loved. Wherever you are in whatever city or ghetto or war zone on whatever foreign shore you are loved. There are people you can talk to that are trained to help. If times get too dark and you consider suicide stop whatever you are doing and call a hotline. I don't know if anyone ever reaches true happiness but things can get better.
    Didn't mean to preach but I did it anyway. Goodnight and God bless

  24. when you said the last quote i started looking around for cameras in my room because that sounded like it was lifted straight out of my life

  25. Dostoyevsky? If only there was some sort of reader that could condensethe book…perhaps with a modern patois…in a cliff's notes format…

  26. Concept: The philosophy of grammarly ~ and machines writing for us
    Would a machine writing for you be considered plagiarism?

  27. I knew you were going to reference notes from the underground. I'm currently reading it out of spite! It's weird

  28. Treatment for depression here in America can get very expensive, so I understand why depression memes can sort of help unwind someone.

  29. Here’s the plan since Area 51 is heavily guarded. We must be smart and quiet. Everyone knows the date, September 20th, 2019. At this point, the army expects it to be that day. Instead, we commence this grand operation 2 days later. They won’t even expect it. We climb the fences and break in. We storm to the center and find the CEO of racism, and slap the fire out of him. Then, we find the CEO of aliens. We talk him into giving us the aliens or we waterboard him with Bella Delphines gamer and bathwater. Then, everyone gets an alien and a UFO. We get their weapons and technology and run this country. We make the United States a true democracy with no leader. We show the aliens Anime and Minecraft to help them lead this world to the future. My boys, this shall go down in history.

    ~Aryan Vij

  30. I didn't know of that book and it might really help me on therapy to understand shit.
    Depression memes are still glorious tho.
    Amem.

  31. Not gonna lie, I watched this for the memes. On the bright side, I'm now an expert on Subway Man by Tolstoyjetski.

  32. Hi Wiscrack, Michael here. Can you make a video on bandwagon, trends, and on the subject of how and why Minecraft is suddenly coming back?

  33. Area 51 is an impenetrable fortress, if they have a death wish then that’s on them but when they bleed out on the desert floor, I hope they don’t attempt to dodge the blame by blaming an armed to the teeth military base that gave them fair warning before opening fire.

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