Ever wonder why a meme resonates with you so hard? Ever catch yourself realizing the dumb looping video you just giggled at and retweeted is actually a clever commentary on a common social convention? Ever apply library science skills to one of the largest meme data sets in the world? Okay, two out of three ain’t bad. Amanda Brennan joins Adam to talk about her path into the world of internet culture and memes, and how she makes sense of it all. Her passion for memes is rivaled by her understanding of the form.
Find your host, Adam Pierno at www.adampierno.com
The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who thinkfor a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to push back on something you hear in this episode, go to https://thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The best and mostinteresting messages will be added to future episodes, and I can’t waitto hear from you. Music for The Strategy Inside Everything is by Sawsquarenoise. Host Adam Pierno is an author, speaker and strategy consultant. Learn more atadampierno.com.
Adam Pierno 0:02
This is The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m Adam Pierno. The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who think for a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to push back on something you hear in this episode, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The best and most interesting messages will be added to future episodes. And I can’t wait to hear from you. All right, welcome back to another episode of the strategy inside everything. We’re going to talk about one of my passions and obsessions that I love to think about and probably think about too much. But I’m joined by a true expert in the space. I have Amanda Brennan. She is the Senior Director of social trends at XX artists and a meme librarian. Amanda, how are you?
Amanda Brennan 0:34
I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me. I can’t wait to dig in with you.
Adam Pierno 0:39
I am so grateful that you agreed to come on and talk because I’m always thinking about memes.
Amanda Brennan 0:47
Yeah, right. Exactly.
Adam Pierno 0:48
And I thought, oh, who thinks about it more than me? There’s maybe a handful of people. You’re definitely one of them. So thank you so much.
Amanda Brennan 0:55
Yeah, thank you.
Adam Pierno 0:56
So could you give the audience a sense of you know, what your career path is? Like? How do you get so invested in memes? And I think it’ll help them understand your expertise and your understanding of of meme culture?
Amanda Brennan 1:10
Yeah, definitely. I graduated from college with a BA in English in 2008. And 2008, was surely a time. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I ended up working in the mall for a year and just kind of like floated around, I ran into someone I went to college or high school with. And she mentioned she was going to library school. She was like, Hey, I’m applying to Rutgers. Huge. Because New Jersey, I’m from New Jersey, Rutgers is the place to be. And she’s like, You should think about it. I know, you’ve always loved information. And I’m like, you know, I’m bored. Why not? So as my library sciences, yeah, library and information science. Yeah, I ended up getting in, I only applied to wreckers I was like, if this doesn’t work out, like I’ll figure out something else. And I ended up starting at Rutgers, the same semester, they announced a social media, like a social media concentration for the Information Science degree.
Adam Pierno 2:14
Oh, that’s an interesting coincidence on
Amanda Brennan 2:17
Yeah, right. So I was like, you know, this feels really right. I knew that I didn’t want to work in a traditional library, which, like, I love books, I love libraries. But I didn’t really want to be as localized. Like, when you’re in a library, you’re pretty hyperlocal. And I wanted to do something a little more. bigger, a little bigger.
Adam Pierno 2:40
So when you say bigger, did you mean, you didn’t want to be confined to the physical stacks of a single library in a town and serving? Yeah, you were thinking like, How can I apply Library and Information Sciences more broadly, or have a bigger reach?
Amanda Brennan 2:55
Exactly, like, and at this point, I had known a lot of librarians and I was at this point in my career, where I was like, I know I’ve got something like an understanding that I can bring that would I want to serve the world, for lack of a better word, lofty goals of the early 2010s. And at this point, I really studied, like how information structures are built online, not only with databases and metadata, but how we talk to each other through metadata. And I did my Cornerstone project on Tumblr tagging, were in this was, you know, 2009 2010. At this point, it was still very new. And on Tumblr, tagging is very unique, where you put a whole sentence in your tags, so it’s not just like hashtag cat hashtag. Meow, it’s hashtag My cat is the cutest cat in the world, can you believe that I get to be in the same room as this thing. And like, these deep sentences are something that’s so unique to Tumblr and fascinated me, because metadata is something that’s just like so internal, and not meant to be processed like that. It’s meant to be processed by computers. But Tumblr came along and treated metadata as like a whisper network of how you spoke to the people. You are, like more easily connected to because, you know, in tumbler, this tumbler was the first place that like reblogging became a concept. They had it before the retweet. And it was the beginning of a piece of content going so far out of your universe, that these whisper tags that didn’t really go with the content were a way to stay intrinsic, while also expanding out
Adam Pierno 4:59
Yeah, it’s such a human element to the technology that doesn’t it really doesn’t exist anywhere else. I mean, I think Reddit is the next most human network. Yeah, but even so there’s not the same like level of whisper tags or or information organization because Tumblr does not have the vertical interest based tags. Exactly. You have to really figure out how to how to search on Tumblr to find
Amanda Brennan 5:23
for Yeah, it’s high barrier to entry. But that’s like, I love I love when people got to do a little work. And then they end up there. And they’re just like, they find a beautiful treasure trove of content. So I did that in school, then I started working at Know Your Meme, which is where the term meme librarian came from, because I was literally a librarian who worked categorizing memes.
Adam Pierno 5:51
Yeah. And I’m obsessed with Know Your Meme. So I read. Yeah, I have an RSS of it. I read every post that they that they’ve made. And that’s kind of my pop culture connection. And my kids are still like, how the hell do you know this dad? Why? Why do you know about this?
Amanda Brennan 6:11
I love that. It’s such an amazing resource. And it’s like, evolved over the years as internet culture has evolved, but I think is so important to understanding, like, what is happening at a deeper level and culture than you can see at the highest, like, the highest level, and they’re doing incredible work, and really thinking about how people how, how people change so quickly and adapt so quickly to meme content. Yeah. Yeah, so I was there for three years, I really focused on community building and getting really deep into like fandom, which led to me working at Tumblr for seven years. And while I was at Tumblr, it sounds like the right place. Yeah, it was, it was really meant to be. And I really focused on taking all of the tag information, and making it usable for both people and computers at Tumblr. So it was like a perfect dovetail of information science, and just my passion for online community. I built Fandometrics. Are you familiar with Tumblr Fandometrics?, I’m not. Oh, fandom.tumblr.com. It is basically Nielsen rankings for inside Tumblr. Because Tumblr can be such a black box. It’s really interesting, and was important for me to show like, Hey, these are the conversations that are happening here. And like getting to show a wider mass of people like the deep inner workings of what was going on underneath the surface.
Adam Pierno 7:57
So you you this was your brainchild to figure out how can we express this in a way that people outside of the Tumblr ecosystem can have a window into it and understand it?
Amanda Brennan 8:06
Yeah, so I started in November 2013. And my boss at the time, Danielle Strle, handed me 100,000-line spreadsheet, and I was like your library and make sense of this.
Adam Pierno 8:18
And was that good news or bad news?
Amanda Brennan 8:21
That was wonderful news – spreadsheets are my love language. She found the right person. Yeah. And it turned into Tumblr’s very first Year in Review. So we took all of the tags and made like the most reblogged lists. So we were one of the first people to acknowledge Kpop as a genre, and like Kpop fandom in 2013. It was incredible. And what I did after that Fandometrics was built out of the Year in Review project. Because we I took all this data and like, sometimes librarians will use something like a WorldCat, or like a previously structured taxonomy and apply it to a dataset and have the computer automatically sort things. But as someone who’s like really focused on internet culture, and recognizing that, like, the way that people talk about internet culture is not going to be in a WorldCat. We built the taxonomy backwards. So I let the data tell me what categories we needed. Your face is incredible. Right?
Adam Pierno 9:29
So So tell me more. Tell me more about this. So how do you how do you work backwards from that data? You know, what are you? Are you just sorting by most used terms and then grouping those into categories? I mean, isn’t that
Amanda Brennan 9:42
yeah, that’s like the it was a lot of color coding early on. But letting the data imform like, oh, people are talking about are in a very specific way. And these are the types of tags they’re using. So let’s work like on the lowest level We’ve got like pixel art. And then we can level that up to kind of like abstract and level that up to artist and like, thinking about how the tags sit within each other. A really great example of this is a TV show. Are you familiar? It’s Supernatural. So Supernatural 15 seasons, it’s like a running joke that it’s Tumblr’s favorite fandom. And the way that people talk about the characters, because like, it’s also such like a weird web of like, Dean Winchester, played by Jensen Ackles, main brother, he also becomes a demon at one point, so people would use the tag demon!Dean, to discern that they’re not only talking about Dean Winchester, they’re talking about this specific
Adam Pierno 10:49
a specific window when he was the demon.
Amanda Brennan 10:51
Exactly. So like thinking about how these things ladder up and how they relate to each other. It’s not anywhere else on the internet, really, like, people do this on Twitter, and Reddit and all these other places. But I really thought it was important to think about, like how communities form and how they talk to each other. So we could, we ended up using it as the backbone for ad targeting technology. Because like, it’s, if you’ve ever if you’ve ever bought an ad on Facebook, you know, like, you can choose that I want to target, you know, this age group, this demographic, this place, these alerts do that. Yeah, Tumblr is like, I want to target people who, like we’ve got a new TV show, and I want to target people who love spooky shit, and like hot, you know, young people, and all of these things. So we would build these structures being like, Okay, here’s all the tags with Supernatural fandom. Here’s all the tags for this. And I really love it because it puts interests first in a way that takes the user out of it. Yes. Where like, you’re not digging into someone’s personal information that the computer is listening for. It’s like, no, you’ve literally tagged something Supernatural. So we know that you like this type of genre of tv.
Adam Pierno 12:18
You’re volunteering it now it’s up to the tombstone pizza to make something Yeah. So that person sees it and says, Yes, I get it. This connects to me, there’s something spooky about this ad or about this message versus just being like, shop now. Oh, yeah. Great. That’s awesome. Guys, you nailed it.
Amanda Brennan 12:34
Exactly. And like, as both someone who’s incredibly passionate about information and user privacy, it was really wonderful to work on that, even though like ad companies don’t operate with that mindset. So it was it was an interesting problem, but a really fun one. So we built this whole taxonomy and a whole kind of relationship tree, I worked with incredible data scientists to understand like how information moves on Tumblr, and focus on like, the way that we approach trending was less about that the stuff that’s always going to be on top, so like, BTS, for example, will always operate at a volume that is unlike any other fan, nothing else is going to get close to him. Exactly. A couple years ago, gosh, it was either 2016 2017 Time is a prison. I have no concept of time. It was like peak Hamilton era of Broadway fandom, everyone knew about Hamilton. And that year, the top musical on Tumblr was something called Be More Chill. And Hamilton was number two. And it was completely absurd to many people. But it was because we were looking at trending growth versus pure. Like, it wasn’t just pure volume. So it was
Adam Pierno 14:05
more like velocity versus Yeah. versus volume, the straight number of posts and reblogs. It’s it was more about No, it’s gaining ground at this rate. And that’s the more important metric to look at is how many people are picking it up as
Amanda Brennan 14:20
Exactly, yeah. And at that time, it was just a recording of the of the musical on Spotify. It had one performance in Red Bank, New Jersey, it was like based on a book that was out of print and hard to find. But the two people who created it, one of which is Joe Iconis, who is like an incredible musician. He was just like trying to get it out into the world. And Tumblr fans like a couple of Tumblr fans grabbed onto it and started making fan art. They found it, they unwrap the story. It led to an Off Broadway revival. for the show, and then on Broadway, they had a Broadway run the following year. And it was wild to me as someone who is like so in the data to see that happen in real life. And then to see the show, and it closed, I think it was August, it was August 2019. Because I had tickets to go see it in Chicago, the following March 2020. And that didn’t happen. But I remember I went to see it, like very, with within a month of closing, and just seeing all the fans and the magic that it was bringing to people. And it was like, really internet, really beautiful, like very teenage, meta, and just like crying, knowing that like, the way that I built a data structure allowed for this to happen. Yeah. And that was one of the most magical points of my career.
Adam Pierno 15:57
Yeah, it allowed the Internet to will the thing to be resurrected, and more people could be exposed to it and experience it in a shared environment versus the the single place you could have used it before. Yeah, yeah. So it’s like another language, as you just pointed out.
Amanda Brennan 16:13
And it’s interesting, actually, it was just quoted in an article about this, thinking about this in 2022, people are much more aware of algorithms and how, how algorithms filter words. So that’s why you’ll see like, “ouid” for weed like “seggs” for sex.
Adam Pierno 16:28
I remember there was an article, I think it was Taylor Lorenz that wrote an article a couple months ago about how TikTok users are, are using these alternate words, like, “unalive” instead of dead or?
Amanda Brennan 16:49
Yeah, but it’s really interesting, like, as someone who’s been in this industry for over a decade now to see like, the awareness that people have, how their language is affected by algorithms and like, computer. Like when you post something, there is definitely a computer level that looks at it, a computer layer that looks at your content before it even makes it to your followers. And seeing like social media businesses, I follow a person. It’s The Eighth House. She’s a cool witch. She runs a witch shop on Instagram. But she’s always posting about like, Hey, here’s how the algorithm dings you if you’re posting about shopping or like, here’s like what you have to face as a social media professional. Before you even get to running your online shop. Yes. And I’ve loved her content. Because one she’s like, super real, but to seeing how someone who is not deeply in internet, the the industry of the internet is seeing this and processing. It has been fascinating for me.
Adam Pierno 18:01
Yeah, it is always interesting to have a layman or someone who’s an outsider come explain things to you. And you say, oh, that’s that’s, you got to the right place. But the way you got there so interesting.
Amanda Brennan 18:12
Yeah, it’s something I always say at work, which I’ve been very grateful that people have taken and run with is we all have our own internet. And right now, algorithms and the way that we’ve moved towards the way that just data is processed, and the way that apps are built, they’re built to keep you in kind of like your own little skyscraper of what is happening. And like, you can ride this elevator all day, but you won’t know what’s happening and the one next to you. And
Adam Pierno 18:45
there’s 9 billion front doors, and they don’t all connect back.
Amanda Brennan 18:49
Yeah, and one thing that I really impress on my team, so I’ve been at XX for about a year and a half, and I really impress on the team now that I can focus on the whole internet instead of just one product is like, we’re all seeing different iterations of memes and trends. And what I’m seeing on Twitter is gonna be very different from you know, as a 36 year old queer woman from the East Coast is going to see something very different than like, a 22 year old, straight male in LA. And what I am more interested in now is finding like, if you’ve got this set of trends, I’ve got this set of trends and like, we’ve got five different sets. What is the tie that binds these things together? What is the deeper meaning behind like, you know, this tick tock meme and this Reddit, Reddit thread and this Twitter posts like, these three things may look unrelated, but the deeper meaning of it all is like this drive for whatever and like, that’s what I want to know.
Adam Pierno 19:59
Yes. And that’s why I wanted to talk to you. So how when I think of an even the word meme, depending on who you talk to, so if I talk to, you know, a 65 year old woman in, you know, the Northwest when she thinks she’s probably thinking of some minions meows on Facebook and you know, you’re thinking of something on tumblr and I’m thinking of something on Twitter. Even the word meme has become algorithmically defined. Yeah, I only know it as I’m exposed to it, which is, which is why I read Know Your Meme as legislators I do because I don’t spend a lot of time tick tock, but I want it to be plugged into what the trends are. And I haven’t put the brainpower to it the way you have to figure out okay, well, what’s happening below the surface? Connecting those stories or those those memes?
Amanda Brennan 20:54
I’m gonna take you on a journey for a little bit, about words. Let’s
Adam Pierno 20:56
go. I’m scrapping.
Amanda Brennan 20:58
Are you familiar with the word emo? Of course? Yeah. When would I say the word emo, How would you define it?
Adam Pierno 21:07
I am older than you. So I wouldn’t translate it in my brain to goth. I know it’s not the same thing. But like, that’s the translation I do. I go, Oh, well, when I was that age, that’s what it meant. And that was kind of the approximation. Got it.
Amanda Brennan 21:21
Okay. So I grew up, you know, early 00’s. And New Jersey emo was like a very specific thing. It was like this very set, like specific set of bands can hear the music. Yeah. And I was obsessed with this website called Audiogalaxy. Like, no one’s ever heard of it. But it was basically a giant taxonomy of every band you could think of. And I think that’s why my brain is the way it is, because that was my formative view. But like, for me, email is like Sunny Day Real Estate and Braid and the Get Up Kids and like, I can see like a very distinct timeline. When I worked at Hot Topic, at the end ’00s, emo was the Black Veil Brides, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, it was a completely different genre of music
Adam Pierno 22:10
that had its time. That’s what I was thinking. That’s the music. I said, when I said I could hear the bands. That’s the Yeah, I got an answer I was I got in three years or five years after.
Amanda Brennan 22:19
Exactly. But like, that’s how emo was marketed in a different way. And like, a lot of what I’ve been thinking about lately is like how content for lack of a better word gets watered down to the lowest common denominator. And like, it’s not necessarily a good or bad watered down, it’s like, not everyone can be as deep in a thing. And not everyone can get into this level. Like, in using the skyscraper metaphor, not everyone is gonna go to the tallest. The tallest floors of the skyscraper, you need, like this entry level edition of it. And I think like, as someone who is deeply in the genre and watched it blossom, like the first MCR album is incredibly, like, it’s the bridge between what I think of as emo and what like the rest of the world does. And you could see how it evolves on their second album, and so on and so on. But it’s like,
seven, it’s like, what’s the the nine degrees of Kevin Bacon or something? seven degrees? Six Degrees?
Yeah, it’s like the degrees away. But once you get X amount of degrees away, you can get a bigger audience and thus, a bigger, for lack of a better term marketing pool. Yeah. So when I think about the word mean, and now the word trend, I think about it in the same projection of like, meme and internet culture can mean a lot of different things. Like, I like to define meme as a thing that moves from person to person and changes along the way. It can be a picture, it can be a word, it could be a phrase, it could be an aesthetic, like, memes are so elastic, and the way that it changes is really the mimetic quality of it. And I think, when I think of emo, the way that it has changed is the mimetic quality of what you know, means, like, you say, emo to someone who is you know, 18 Right now they have a completely different world, because it’s gone through so many iterations by the time it’s gone to them. And that a great example what she used before of like the minion means to a very specific set of people minion memes that is meme, and you will say, like, Well, what about you know? What about the phrase? Hey, babe, are you okay? You’ve barely touched your X. I mean, like, what? No, they would be so confused. Yeah. Um, And I think we’re at this point where virality has gotten into this mess of like, because everyone wants to be viral Tiktok has completely changed the game of how to go viral. And like, these one off moments are what people are seeking now. And like people will consider these one off moments trends, which leads back to like sleepy time chicken, if you heard about them the past couple of weeks, like, stupid. Yeah, it’s not a trend. Like it’s not something that multiple people are doing. It was like, one dumb post from 2017. That gets sent back into the trends cycle and like, it goes viral, and then someone who is not equipped with the words to understand internet culture, they like, Oh, I saw this one post, it is a trend, just as people would say like it is a meme. Yes. And I think that’s just like this weird shift in language that has to do with marketing, but also, like, lowest common denominator reach
Adam Pierno 26:07
would it be and it becomes a mechanism of poorly translated understanding that they use the word trend. And then my local news is actually covering it because they, when they say trend, they take it out of internet culture. And they they’re, they’re interpreting it as like, people are really doing this. They’re it’s a trend people. It’s like, no, nobody ever did that. Some somebody some jerk posted a picture on whatever for chain or whatever it was. Yeah. And here we go. You know, now somebody found it, and it gets reposted by someone else who adds a layer of irony to it.
Amanda Brennan 26:42
Exactly. And it’s like Tide Pods all over again. Yeah,
Adam Pierno 26:45
yes. I don’t know that anybody ever ate one? I still until it became a thing like, exactly, we should eat them. And it we should do it on YouTubes. Because it’d be funny and I’ll get some. I’ll get some heat.
Amanda Brennan 26:57
Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s funny when Tide Pods are like at the height, I did a huge folklore convention out in Utah, with I’m blanking on the name of it, but it was all these folklorists, and they were looking at the overlap of memes and folklore. And, again, being like in this room with this different perspective of people, this different set of words around internet culture, and hearing like these similar things, and like, tech pods is essentially folklore of like, Oh, I’ve, I’ve heard the story of someone needing a tripod, and now you’re blowing it up and blowing it up, just like Slenderman. I think Slenderman is one of the greatest examples of internet folklore. And I’ve worked with some incredible folklorists like Lynne McNeil and Trevor Blank, who have really, really nailed this in the folklore context. And at that convention, one of the students ended up making a tide pod cake to represent like this overlap of mean and folklore and just like, what are we even doing? What is this?
Adam Pierno 28:13
Yeah, well, Slenderman is something I’ve I’ve written about. And the idea of memes, as folklore, is a really apt way to look at it. I’ve never thought about it that way. That’s a really nice, that passing of information from one person to the next for usually, traditionally orally. But this is anything but your digital transmission has changed the scale of it and the scope, but the same idea of how it how a story in folklore changes when it leaves the original circle. Yeah, so the next circle and all of a sudden, there’s a new element that’s added to it or somebody you know, the way Santa Claus has changed over time as it got to Coca Cola. Yeah. You know, it was like, Oh, now we’re gonna we’re gonna reshape the story for a million people or 10 million people versus a village. Yeah. And memes are kind of that way to like you referenced. Babe, are you okay? Yeah. The more you see that, I just jumped to the word. Yeah, no, I see Bay bar and I look at the last word. What’s the joke, you know, barely touched your GDP like you. Okay, I’ll get right. I know what happened in the headlines today. I can make it Yeah. Whatever it is. Is that something that you that scale and jumping scale? Is that something you’ve experienced or witnessed? Oh, my gosh, where did it I should rephrase that as a as a question you could actually answer. Where do you see memes change the most or in especially at Broad imagine you’d have more of a control panel of this where you could see shift trajectory or chief meeting
Amanda Brennan 30:00
It’s wild because it’s as as a new type of linguistic thing like, by the time it reaches you it’s already changed meaning. And have you read because Internet by Gretchen McCullough? Not Yeah. Yeah, it is an incredible book about internet language and how like, it’s, it’s almost impossible to document because of the way like, it’s not only happening in a computer mediated way it’s happening in real life, like, just the way that we speak to each other. Like, by the time it gets back to the internet as something new, it’s, it’s already been changed so much that you can’t really trace the trajectory. And I think just to go back to Slenderman, because I’ve done a lot of work and research on it is interesting. It started out on the something awful forums, this one guy, photoshopped the photo. And like, gave it some loose context. Victor Serge is his name. And then it was a couple of months later, a group of videographers. Troy, I’m blanking on their names right now. But these three kids started a web series called Marble Hornets on YouTube. And in Marble Hornets, they gave the concept of slender sickness, where when you get close to Slender Man, you start coughing, and like you develop some kind of illness from being close to it. And like that was never in the original context. Nothing was
Adam Pierno 31:33
in the original, the original context. Yeah. Look at that shape in the background. You know, yeah, it’s really wild.
Amanda Brennan 31:40
Yeah, disappearing kids. And they, they took it and iterated on it. And then they gave it the operator symbol, which is the X in the circle. And like that turned into something new. And then like, the slender verse popped up of like, all these different series exploring these things. And I think to me, that’s one of the most amazing examples of like, iteration and change, because it is documented with timestamps, uploads, yes, but also because you can see how it layers on top of each other. And like the references build to create this, the folklore and I just love Slenderman as an example.
Adam Pierno 32:19
Yeah. And obviously because it culminated in real world terror and a terrible movie, which which did not multiple terrible movie Yeah. And, and very heavily borrowed terrible movies as well that don’t have to, like their real name of Slenderman. But borrow the idea. Nobody’s ever done it justice. Compared to how scary it is to just look at some of the creepypasta and say, Yeah, that’s a much scarier idea, then then this terrible, like slasher movie where, where it’s, yeah, the formula has been applied to it by Hollywood.
Amanda Brennan 32:51
Yeah, but just to go back to like full circle conversation. It gets watered down for the biggest what did I say earlier, like, least common denominator, like, you want it to reach as much people so you have to water it down and take it out of that context? And then, yeah, in that
Adam Pierno 33:09
example, that when it goes from, you know, it’s original post, and there was there was more text based context added before Marble Hornets in the marble. What’s just occurred to me as you were walking through that timeline. Marble Hornets is a different platform it is to versus the original platform. And so I wonder if that’s where the transmission like the story change, they add a new element, but not only did they add a new element, they did it in a new way. Yeah. platform and a new format. So people were to your point earlier, it’s not just that somebody read it. It’s, it’s the information gets to people in a different way. And now it’s like, Well, exactly. It was pouring gasoline on it.
Amanda Brennan 33:53
Yeah. And the way that like, it kind of spiders out is like, while this was happening, there were other people continuing to do creepypasta there were people continuing to do fan art. There was also like the era of the Trender Man. Have you ever heard of that one’s No, no, no, no. So someone found a mannequin that looked like Slenderman it was just like a white face, but it was wearing like a hip sweater. It was like, Oh, this is slender man’s cousin trender man. And then there was a slender man and it was like this, this deep dive into like the, I would call it like, the stuff you do when you’re high with a meme. Like that, that just kind of absurdity of like, okay, how do we push this to be weirder and weirder, and then I’d be remiss not to talk about the Kenosha stabbing and like someone who took it very seriously in a completely different way, thinking that it was real and something that could affect their real lives. And like, all of this is happening simultaneously. And again to like go back to the skyscraper is like, it’s happening in buckets where they are not talking to each other and just kind of forming on their own, even though they all started at the same photoshopped, something awful post, like they have gotten and formed their own worlds around it.
Adam Pierno 35:19
Yeah, you wonder if people who take it seriously see the absurd of stuff, or if they’re never exposed to that, and so they’re never going to see like, oh, it’s fake. It’s silly, you know, or there’s a there’s a silly side to this. I don’t maybe I don’t need to be taking it as seriously as I am. And there’s other internet phenomenons that, you know, you wish you could inject some levity into where people start taking very seriously and you say, Guys, this is a joke, or this is this is just someone posting some cryptic crap. That doesn’t mean anything. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s being transmitted again and again, and growing each time. Yeah.
Amanda Brennan 35:54
And it’s, it’s the blessing and the curse of the algorithm, honestly, like, you get put into a certain set of content. And it just feeds you more like it. And it’s not, like, it knows algorithms across the whole internet, like it know, like, Hey, I see you going down this path. I’m gonna keep showing you this path. Like, I’m not going to show you the weird stuff, necessarily. And I think something I love on Twitter is the viral tweets moment. Yeah. If like seeing these weird things that like, I imagine those as the thing that like most people on Twitter are seeing and just the absurdity within it. And like the, the levels of nuance added to these, I mean, posts that are just like, you need to have been on Twitter for like 10 years to understand them.
Adam Pierno 36:44
It’s like those Yes, yes. No tweets were were Yes. You really have to have this legacy of the platform itself to even understand the shorthand that is being Yeah, because it has to fit into underneath the characters.
Amanda Brennan 36:58
Yeah. But it’s just like, I think we all as internet users, especially over the past couple of years, as life has moved, so online, forget that, like, everyone’s internet is different. And everyone is seeing a different flavor of something and like, what I understand, to go back to my email reference, what I understand as like, oh, yeah, Emo revival. Like, I can’t wait to go listen to this weird album. Like, people are thinking like, oh, Emo revival, MCR is on tour. And it’s, it’s just completely different understanding and not that one person is wrong. Like, it’s just the different lenses, the different path that we’ve taken to get here. And in fact, like
Adam Pierno 37:50
things can be true. Yeah.
Amanda Brennan 37:53
And I say this as someone who is very deeply into old school emo, and also MCR, like, there are different flavors. But depending on who you’re talking to, and like, it’s all, again, for lack of a better term, it’s kind of code switching, of like, Oh, I’m talking to someone of this age, like, let me just talk about emo as this and not get into the weeds of like, fighting. And I think this is something really interesting that Gen Z has done, because Gen Z just comes in has all this information laid out in front of them. Whereas like, I’m a millennial, I had to do all this research. There’s a lot less gatekeeping within Gen Z. Yeah,
Adam Pierno 38:33
yeah. And I’m, I’m Gen X and gatekeeping was the coin of the realm, to have you to have an album that you love that nobody else knew about, or to be into writing that nobody else knew about was like, that was prestige. Do you be like, Yeah, I saw that movie. It just didn’t tell you about it. Like, yeah, for Gen Z. It’s more like, look at this thing I found I’m gonna post it in its entirety, and everybody should have access to it. It is the opposite. They use I guess they’re the same thing. It’s just they have the tools to to broadcast their cultural awareness versus for Gen Xers. I didn’t even have texting. So yeah, exactly. When we tell people face to face, you know, maybe I had email, friends. Yeah, finally.
Amanda Brennan 39:17
Oh, never forgot. It’s it’s both. I think it really rounds out the conversation Well, to think about, like, how Gen Z approaches to this. Everything is available to them at all times. And I think it’s why trends move so quickly. Because Gen Z does not feel like they have to like once they’re goth, they’re goth forever. Like, no, they can be playful. They can be pastel goth. They can bring it to the Sims. I just saw a really incredible Instagram reel of your goth dad. Have you seen your Korean dad on TikTok? I’ve seen that. Yeah, it’s the same vibe except it’s I want to say that it’s a band and the one guy in the band is doing it. But it was like your goth dad talks to you about your pet’s death. And is like sitting down and being like, full goth makeup but in that same and they’re from somewhere in the Midwest, so he’s got like a very like Fargo accent. I love it. And it’s just like, so incredible. I don’t know, it’s like really beautiful when you can get into all these different worlds. But it also requires you as a person to like, push yourself out of your own world sometimes. Yeah.
Adam Pierno 40:29
I mean, I probably could talk to you till 5pm. So I’m not gonna I’m not gonna do that. But I’m so grateful that you made time and I’m glad I had the chance to meet you. Closing out here, where can people find you online?
Amanda Brennan 40:44
I thought I was going to be a linguist. So my internet handle is continuants. It’s a fancy word for vowels. I am on Twitter, Instagram. I’m not on TikTok. That’s a whole other hour long conversation. But yeah, memelibrarian.com is my Tumblr.
Adam Pierno 41:04
I love it. I will link to those places in the show notes. And maybe we will find lucky. I’ll schedule an hour with you to hear your story about TikTok.
Amanda Brennan 41:14
Amazing. Thank you so much.
Adam Pierno 41:17
Awesome. The Strategy Inside Everything is produced by me, Adam Pierno If you like what you’ve heard, leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Actually, I have no idea if that helps, or if it’s ever done anybody any good. If you really want to help the show, and you liked what you heard, share it with someone else who you think will dig it. That’s the best way to help the show and keep the conversation growing. New Music for the strategy inside everything is by Sawsquarenoise. If you have an idea, a question or want to push back on something you hear here, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. If you want more information on your host Adam Pierno you can find it on adampierno.com and learn about my books, speaking and consulting practice. Thanks so much for listening.
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