It all started so innocently.
In 2007 somebody had a funny photo. In that photo, a person was clearly doing something in a manner which would not lead to success in their endeavour.
The enterprising person in possession of this photo wrote “FAIL” on it, and posted the photo to the Internet. It was simple. It was clever. The photo (which I don’t remember, exactly, does anybody know what started it all?) was funny. The “FAIL” added something to it, and a meme was born.
In January 2008, failblog was born — it would eventually be sold for a profit several months later.
Three years later, and the meme is still going strong — surfing the Internet, FAIL photos are easily found in many locations. The FAIL blog now has a YouTube channel, and other sites devoted to the meme, such as English FAIL and Daily FAIL have risen. The meme now needs multiple supporting sites.
But why does the popularity endure? Has it not run its course?
Let us take the following example:
When I started to think about writing this blog post, this was the most recent entry at FAILblog. It was titled Wrestling Maneuver Fail. But who is failing? What are they failing at? It is far from clear to me — and probably far from clear to people who know wrestling — who is successful in this photo.
The funny part is that the wrestler on the bottom is holding the penis of the wrestler on the top. The photo is humorous on its own, but good captions are available:
Mom always said, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Step one: squeeze.
Nearly pinned, Johnny used his infamous hand job move.
“FAIL”, however, fails to be witty, funny, or even descriptive. It is, however, the caption. But even when it is descriptive, there are several reasons why it should die out, and soon.
It is both old and uncreative
It seems most likely that FAIL is just a crutch for people who lack the intelligence, patience, or wherewithal to come up with something original. After all, how many times can you hear the same joke before it stops being funny?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but after three years of photos with FAIL written on them filling the tubes of the internet, most people should be well past their saturation point by now. This small corner of the internet would make the bet that when people DO laugh at a FAIL-photograph, it is in spite of the provided caption, and not because of it.
It has escaped into the wilds of the internet
The FAIL has managed to escape the photograph, into the wider Internet. Right now it seems largely confined to Twitter and video, but as a problem at Amazon last year shows, even the BBC can get on board with the juxtaposition of a subject and the word fail.
Video is closely related to photography, of course, and Twitter’s hash tags and character limit make it an ideal breeding ground in which FAIL could escape the “unimaginative, unfunny caption” status it currently holds, and make a break to the wider world.
It is already happening. And only you can help to stem that tide.
… and into the speaking world
That is, if it’s not too late.
A pet peeve of mine — and many others — is when people start to speak in text message or internet speak. Not in an “I less than three you” sort of way, but sounding out the letters LOL instead of either laughing or saying “that’s funny”. I worry that these people have had their brains melted by aliens, and are now trying to pass a word-of-mouth virus through the general population that will also destroy my own.
It certainly feels that way.
The final straw in this is when FAIL enters into the conversation. At least LOL and their like is simply a matter of people being unable to differentiate a chatroom from a conversation — they have communication difficulties, but not necessarily true mental deficiencies. Somebody who is incapable of expressing themselves, and instead bleats out a four letter, one syllable word, “FAIL!”. That person has a real problem.
I have heard it in conversation, sadly.
The time to act is NOW!
So, dear Internet, are you with me? We must stop the FAIL before it goes any further. Stopping it’s spread across additional mediums is simply not enough. We need to stop captioning funny photographs with the same four letters.
Humour should be simple, yes, but it also needs to be creative, original and insightful.
Let us stop the spread of FAIL before it becomes more than a meme. It begins with you.