In a community I spend a lot of time hanging out over on Facebook, someone posted the other day:
“So you people are cool and hip. right?? Why is Bitstrips a thing????”
For those of you who haven’t seen these, Bitstrips is an app that lets you create a cartoon avatar of yourself, and then caption various one-panel cartoons featuring you and your friends. It’s basically a digital version of Colorforms 1 crossed with one of those mail order-storybooks you could get with your child’s name printed in them.
As memes go, this one is pretty innocuous2, and easy enough to flip past or even block if you’re not inclined to see them. A couple of comments in the thread suggested they found them annoying, and one said the ones they had seen were a bit “creepy”, which may reflect their friends more than the app itself3. But one comment really threw me a bit.
I think some of the people that use them think they are funny and the rest are cartoonist wannabes thinking they are being creative and refusing to believe they are premade templates. I blocked them. I hope I am not sounding mean, that’s not my intention, I just think real cartoonists work hard enough as it is.
There’s an awful lot of odd assumptions being made in this comment, each of which is probably worth dissecting on its own, but the one I want to hone in on is the central animus behind it, which is:
There are people having fun in a manner I don’t understand!
This is a pretty common thing lately, and I hate it. It’s an enormous world with an infinite variety of things to see and do, and not everything appeals to everyone, not least because not everything is FOR everyone. There’s an element of sour grapes to the whole attitude: “I don’t like this, and I don’t see why anyone else should have a good time.
A manifestation of this that happens several times a year around big pop culture events that I like to call “Clamouring Indifference.” You’ll see it on your social media every time the Super Bowl happens, or the Oscars are handed out, or the finale of a show like Breaking Bad is aired. Amidst all the people excitingly talking about the event, there will be a handful of people who will feel compelled to post about how they don’t care about the event, how terrifically bored by the event they are, and how they wish everyone would stop talking about it.
The truth is, though, that these people do care about the event. They care deeply and passionately about it. It’s very important for you to know how much they don’t like it. It doesn’t take 500 words to say ‘I don’t care.” I doesn’t even take three. The real message being communicated is the same as the comment above: “Hey, stop enjoying that thing I don’t enjoy.”
We live in an incredible age, where we can pick and choose whatever entertainment we want to consume, at any time, on demand.4 If you’re not interested in the college handegg tournament or the Tony Awards or American Idol, then go watch something else. or start up a different conversation in your space and see who comes to participate in it. But don’t waste your time and everyone else’s by writing an essay about how you don’t care about the thing everyone else is having a perfectly good time enjoying.
They were these little boxed playsets that had a scene on them and little vinyl figures you could arrange on it. It was treated so that the vinyl figures would stick to the backboard, so you could arrange all sorts of little ersatz dioramas. I had a bunch of different ones, mostly comic-book related. ↩
Who knows, maybe it’ll encourage someone to say “I’m really enjoying this, but the limitations of the form frustrate me” and they learn to draw and become the next great cartoonist. Or maybe they just use it to create a lot of corny jokes to amuse themselves and their friends. ↩
And led me to wonder aloud whether they were suggesting that creepy stuff can’t be a “thing” ↩
At least within certain levels of privilege, but I have a feeling the people who aren’t able to access on-demand entertainment are also not loudly professing their profound lack of interest in that entertainment on social media. I could be wrong. ↩
I remember this. I liked it then. I like it now.