Growing up in the 1990’s, I used to have my very own “meet your friends scrapbook”. It was really a hit in early years of elementary school in Serbia when I was growing up. You’d buy a notebook, write down numbers for each line, and different question at the top of different pages. Each of your friends would get a number and answer the questions… What’s their name, age, favorite color, best friend, favorite movie, sport etc. etc.
But this post has nothing to do with reminiscences of my childhood days. It’s about the communication in the age of Internet. And I promise there’s a point in wondering about jokes and scrapbooks in this context!
Where have all the jokes gone?
A few years ago I came to a bit weird realization – nobody tells jokes anymore!
So I wondered about why and how this happened… It used to be very popular in Serbia when I was a kid or even in the beginning of my teenage years (2005, 2006…). I knew many different jokes by heart, you could buy different books with jokes, joke collections of all kinds. From dark humor to jokes about blondes or politicians or police… When friends would gather, young or old, someone would always tell a new joke they’ve heard of, and then you’d tell it to the others and pass it on…
Today, I barely hear a joke… or even see it as a Facebook update once in a while.
I studied languages and cultures (Scandinavian studies) and was always a bit of a nerd when it comes to humanities. So I thought why and how this happened? How did a big part of daily lives or in a way, a big part of culture – and jokes are important part of culture, look at East Europe and dark humor that kind of helped us go through the tough days – simply disappear?
GIFs, videos and memes are the new* thing
OK, GIFs, videos and memes are nothing new, but I have a theory, or more like a wild guess about how jokes got replaced by other types of content… Somewhere in between we started sharing funny videos, fails and GIFs instead of telling jokes. There’s almost no need to tell a funny story about Perica who fell down the whole in the floor when there’s thousands if not millions of videos of this situation.
As we share more and more on our social media, it is nothing but natural to share this entertaining content instead of telling jokes. We like, share and comment on videos, pictures, GIFs and memes all the time…
Memes are the new “joke” and more. They spread virally across the borders, sometimes having even drastic consequences or ruining careers and lives.
No one cares about your childhood, Milos
So, the thing I was talking about, a kind of a scrapbook for your friends to fill up, spomenar, it was THE thing back in 2001. and 2002. But I almost forgot about it, and I wouldn’t even talk about it if I haven’t seen my 10-year-old niece’s Instagram story, and a lot of posts like this one:
Do you know how it works?
If you write me a direct message, I’ll assign you a number and then publish a picture with answers to the questions and your assigned number.
And there are many more games of sorts.
Obviously, it’s the thing for 10/12-yearolds now. A new version of spomenar, as native and natural to my niece as this scrapbook and pen were native to me.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
(but some things stay the same)
One could say that the jokes and scrapbooks haven’t disappeared. They just evolved. Changed so drastically that we do not recognize them… or maybe got replaced by all these new things that are the thing now. It really doesn’t matter when it comes to acknowledging the same patterns, needs and ways of thinking that drive them.
These changes are not bad or good. They just are. And for the communication to have any meaning, you have to evolve as well… Otherwise, your audience will not get the joke.
Wether it is an Instagram story, SnapChat lense (aka filter), Spotify playlist or a meme… think less about the meaning, and more about the audience, goals and story you’re trying to share.
If you do so, everything else will fall into place.