There are many meme's going round on the internet. We all know the grumpy cat, the ecards, the endless photo's, either alone or combined with other, initially totally unrelated photo's, with endless sarcastic comments. And of course the video's of the latest thing to do like planking, batmanning, owling and now the Harlem shake. I'm all for meme's. I think they are part of culture. Not just modern culture. Humans have always shared customs that represent some form of value, resistance, community, moral, and so forth. The idea is to show that you understand each other and are part of the same group. That you are friend rather then foe. That you share the same ideology. Modern meme's do the same thing. They comment on society and represent our social standards or lack there of. Same as gossip does. It actually tells us a lot about ourselves and how we see ourselves.
So what about this Harlem shake thing? What does that say? There are meme's that I greatly enjoy, and others that simply don't do anything for me. But the Harlem shake repels me. This is very interesting. Maybe even more interesting then the ones I like. Why does this meme cause such a strong reaction? What is it about it that bothers me so much? Is it because it is done so much? Or is it that people around me are doing it? They did a Harlem shake at one of the gyms I go to. They did one at the Les Mills training last weekend as well and tried to get me to join in. I said no. And I really mean NO! A friend of mine did join though. She told me: you need to do something crazy every now and then. I totally agree. You should. And that is where the problem lies. Everyone should do something crazy every now and then. Something that is normally not accepted but is something that you like to do anyway. Right now, because everyone is doing it, it is acceptable to act like an idiot for a few seconds and show the world. It's cool. But if you do that in normal life people will judge you. The Harlem shake is pretty extreme I think, grinding the furniture or any other object available, but there are many many things that people secretly like to do but don't because it is not accepted. Joining a video like that gives people the excuse to do something, almost anything, that gives them a chance to break away from the every day restraints. This is what bothers me. The daily restraints.
I tend to think a lot. I tend to look at things and ask why. I can't help it, it's just the way I am. And I look at the Harlem shake and ask why and come to this answer: people are too restrained and need to break free but don't see how they can other then through another boxed, socially acceptable window. The fact that playing it on the internet is a vital part makes it even more sour if you will, as the internet is often perceived as not real. If it's in a place where either no one can see or everyone can see, it doesn't count. Like the karaoke bars in Japan where people get raving drunk and completely let themselves go, venting the frustration of having to pretend to be well adjusted and docile all day long. Within certain limits we are allowed to act a little crazy every now and then. But what is crazy? And what isn't? Is singing a song along with the television really that crazy? Is rubbing against an object really that crazy? Or dancing manically like there is no tomorrow? Or running like a toddler when you're a grown up? Is expressing yourself, expressing the way you feel, really that crazy?
This is the thing that bothers me. The fact that we feel the need for something like a meme to be able to express ourselves. For me the Harlem shake emphasizes our restraints, our limitations and repression. It points out the fact that we need an excuse to do something crazy while we shouldn't need an excuse. We should be able and allowed by others around us, to express ourselves, to be ourselves. If you feel like dancing or singing or screaming, why shouldn't you, just because there are other people around you? Why should you be ashamed of being human? Why are there so many things that are not socially acceptable while they don't harm anyone? Because, really, what harm does it do when someone dances when they feel like it? Why do we feel such shame while we all feel the same way at times? After all we are all human. Nothing human is alien to us.
An interesting video on gossip and what it really means: http://youtu.be/oFDWOXV6iEM