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

100 comments

  1. Just a theory you could be over thinking edgy memes made by teens who are self diagnosed as depressed due to having mixed values contrived from a poor culture they can’t fit into because the normal they think they must be isn’t even normal ?

  2. So, while entertaining, this video gave me no reason not to be depressed.

    Actually, it made me double down…and gave me a new book to add to my reading list.

  3. The Power of Now…no such thing as hyper-“awareness” it’s overthinking (an addiction to thinking), combined with an unappreciation of the “NOW” the absolute present

  4. As a depressed, mentally ill millenial whose grown up poor in FUCKING capitalism, i couldnt help but be amused you philosophize about shitposting
    i was almost about to shitpost about it, im not even lying

  5. True depression is when you have empathy for others because that is the trigger… millions suffering every day.
    If you only care when something negative happens to you, you're just selfish.
    Consciousness must learn to care for others, or it will destroy itself.
    Evil never gives up its power. If they win, the suffering will never end.
    Luckily for them, being a dictator is the best job in the land of the ignorant. Endless corruption.

  6. I'm gonna co-opt some corporate slogan posted outside the bathroom at my current place of work; "the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem." Yes, our world is absurd, and in many ways unjust.

    Now, what are you going to do about that?

  7. Lol as someone who has served in the army I can tell you that this storming area 51 won't go down like anyone wants it to go down. It's going to be be stupid. The airmen who will see the most action will be the medics who have to treat the dumb hippies who got heat stroke outside the gate. Then likely there will be a detail go out and provide these non planning fools some water. Later the crowd will leave after some pointless partying and maybe some police intervention due to illegal activity such as drugs or the two or three people drunk enough to try to actually rush area 51. Then they will leave. There will be a number of lawsuits against the police, and the military even though both parties did more good for the partying hippies than they did harm. Yes very anticlimactic I know but that's how real life is. Which is why instant karma videos are so popular.

  8. How can this analysis get any more wrong and irrelevant. This guy in the video is not a depressed shitposter he is just a douchebag. He goes out to dinner with friends and then ruins the evening. Imagine having friends to go out to dinner with.

  9. Me as Memer: posting memes, thought it's funny….😄

    Wisecrack Guy: It's our contention that this phenomenon of people memes about their despair is an extension of philosophical and psychological sentiment immortalized by Fyodor Dostoevsky's Novella.

  10. It's 2019 and I'm getting the word 'shit' censored out of a video about 'beep'…..memes…and you still wonder why we're all crazy?

  11. The shitposter seems mainly interested in low effort culture jamming though their work is an attempt to thwart any possibility of progress and to selfishly carry off the trophy of disruption as the small gift to oneself that comes from having at least achieved some small thing instead of putting forth the kind of collective effort needed to accomplish something of great value.
    The shitposter seeks some level of interaction, but only controlled kind where they can be sure of what will come of it. In a world where we can count on any possible attack as a reward for sincerity, the defensive posture of the shitpost ensures that the majority of possible responses will only magnify the original message.

  12. I wonder what, under the safe assumption one exists, is the name for the philosophy that takes the cynicism of the underground man, but tries to coopt negative thing for positive sentiments, not so much an optimistic view but more a why the f*** not view, like if we're all going to die why not go out with a bang, I suspect it may be related to nihilism

  13. It is sad how much I relate to this. I even picked to study for a degree in technical IT so I would have the least amount of predestination as to what my job will be. Every time I think "This would be a cool carreer", the thought dies instantly when I weigh the cons. I feel like I am too conscious to decide anything.

  14. Storming Area 51 is a really dumb idea. There is properly no aliens there but there is a base of highly armed US military servicemen who are guarding top secret next gen military aircrafts, so they will shot to kill people who try and storm it.

  15. Honestly, with all of the drama crap going on, people aren’t as much of fence-sitters as the underground man is at all. I think everyone’s just writing jokes they find funny.

    Edit: to clarify, I think we have a serious oversharing problem

  16. OMG….. I unknowingly Bought the Same Book Notes from the Underground… never had i realize "Concious Inertia" is a thing…

  17. I've recently started watching The Orville and it's surprisingly very philosophical. It'd be awesome if you guys could make a video about the show and help me better understand it😃 thank you and keep up the good work

  18. There are two types of people who joke about depression: People with depression, and people who have no fucking clue what depression is.

  19. It seems like the modern trend on anything is just to whine about it and despair about the sorry state of their own existence (because God forbid they appreciate all of the incredible modern amenities that literally no other generation in human history would've had the luxury of appreciating). Just as there are two sides to every coin, there are two ways (or many, many more) to look at any given situation or circumstance. There is the "popular" way of looking at the modern world in the form of late-stage capitalism where "you are a cog in the machine that has no meaning whatsoever…and then you die" kind of outlook that fuels this "Storm Area 51" bullshit. But there is in equal measure (or at least there ought to be) another message that says that we decide the meaning in our otherwise meaningless existence. Anyone who even jokes about storming Area 51 has clearly surrendered to the inherent meaninglessness of the world and of their very existence, which I find pathetic. True, life is inherently devoid of meaning; and yes, it is true that we are all one day destined to die; but if I, like every one of us, am to eventually be as a cow to slaughter, I will go as the finest kobe beef: appreciative of the journey I have traveled, the luxuries I have enjoyed, and will spread my good tidings unto the future that they may positively enjoy the bounties of the very fact that I existed in the first place. The future stands upon the shoulders of the present, and if the shoulders of the present should falter, what then? … Food for thought.

  20. The solution is simple; turn off your "social media" and other online stuff once in a while for a week or so and simply do what you did before you had an internet connection at all.

  21. WUB A LUB A DUB DUB!

    What would be funny would be if the idiots storm Area 51, and the guards and scientists there have spent the advance warning time to build a fake UFO in Hangar 18 with a lemonade stand manned by actors in alien suits.

    Anything really secret will have been removed from the facility decades ago when it became a household name.

  22. The underground man is so boring and i cant see its significance at all. I came up with that "awareness" at the age of 10, coincidentally coinciding when I became aware of death. .

    Amateur.

  23. Some people think that they have the right to happiness, but what people have the actual right to is the pursuit of happiness.
    It means that you have to pursue happiness to get it. It also means that unfortunately some people don't get to be happy even though they tried.
    Some people blame themselves for their lack of happiness.

    Some people blames others for their lack of happiness, hence incel, misogyny, misandry and racism.
    Some people blames society for their lack of happiness, hence the depression.

  24. Could've done without the 'happy note' that invalidates everything that went before it. It's the happy ending we need to reject if we're gonna move forward. Fuck the human condition man.

  25. I don't know about everyone else but I feel depressed when I lack purpose and it alleviates when I feel useful. That and if my blood sugar is low.

  26. Stop bleeping and blurring every occurrence of the word "shit". It's not worth anything if you put it uncensored in the video subtitles [CC]… You got demonetized anyway. Fail.
    1:03 the land of shitposting: Depression memes.
    | 2:41 So what is a shitpost? | 2:58 shitpost if not a pointless, carnivalesque
    3:04 shitposting
    | 3:14 likening the shitpost to | 3:34 19th century proto-shitposter. | 6:29 shitpost, The Underground Man
    6:43 depression shitpost looks not only to express despair
    | 8:06 shitposting represent a rejection of optimistic

  27. Just read Crime and Punishment, wasn't sure which of Dostoevsky's to read next but now I'm captivated by Notes from Underground, so I think that'll be next.

    This video got it bang on. So many people at my school go on and on with depression jokes and memes (including me), and whether we notice it or not, this obsession over dark and suicidal jokes seems to me like a cry for help. It doesn't necessarily mean we're clinically depressed… but maybe just lonely. I know that's not uncommon for teenagers these days.

  28. Whenever you imagine or get close to dying, you feel this fire in yourself, the zeal for life. You look in the mirror, and you see a force of nature. A courageous warrior fighting for life.

    'You've got so much to live for!'
    'You can really change the world!'

    But as soon as you embrace life, it's as if the mirror flips. You see a parasite who feeds off the pain of others. You see someone who is unlovable, and unable to love.

    'Nobody will really care if you die.'
    'You'll never achieve anything of worth.'

    So, there is an unresolvable dichotomy lying under your whole life. To be or not to be? That is the question…

    But since living is the default setting, and you aren't really depressed (right?), you'll just keep on living. And nobody will ever know that anything was ever wrong.

    Oh, did I say 'you'? Damn autocorrect…

  29. Beeps on the internet… people died for the freedom of speech and you are using Beeps and blurs on the internet and instead of saying something about that to YouTube you keep using their platform to post videos.

  30. If a quarter of the people who signed the petition would actually storm area 51 there would be no casualties and we would actually get information but sadly people won't actually do that

  31. "millennials and gen Zers have grown up with the promise of a better future" YOU are the future though, gotta get past those "failed parenting techniques" and false participation medal confidence and make that impact. its not gonna happen 6 months into an internship, its gonna happen with work. The world is depressing and abysmal? CHANGE it. Make the difference thats needed. Shit posting depression while simply being along for the ride cause "meh, the worlds already trash" wont fix anything, itll just pass along the shitty world to the next generations like the current world inherited from our grandparents. The first step is the hardest one, but nothing is gonna change without making it. memes certainly aren't changing anything, other than perpetuating the idea that its okay to just be depressed, do nothing and watch it all burn because "theres nothing we can do". as soon as people give up and join that bandwagon then there is nothing they can do. The world is clearly waiting for people to step up and start making changes, BE those people, RISE UP and make the impact, CHANGE how the world works for the better.

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