10 Jul 2016

LOLing on the Web

Well. So much for the "more frequent posting" deal. You know what, I'm just gonna forget about caring about post frequency for good. Don't have much motivation nowadays for this level of maintenance. But still keeping an eye on this blog.

Anywho, I thought I'd remark a little on the Internet's sense of humour. Because why not? I always found it somewhat fascinating how the areas of focus and enjoyment defer from (and converge with), say, a comedian's brand of humour.

For one, the Internet likes to deal with compactness. Short and sweet usually trumps buildup sequence of wit and humour to a climax, which is kinda the opposite of a comedian's routine. Quick four-panel web comics, Advice Animals (which ironically nowadays hardly involves advice), hilarious Vines and GIFs... not surprising given that there's so much dang content spilling out online, you can only have so much time to grab somebody's attention before their eyes glaze over and they scroll through the rest of their feed. Which also unfortunately encourages the practice of "click-bait" titles. Meanwhile audiences can appreciate the setup and pacing of a comedian's narration or commentary with greater tolerance for length. Not that they are willing to wait through a long draggy tale, but they can listen through for a few minutes rather than watch for a few seconds online.

Another thing is the puns. People seem to like puns in text form on the Internet more so than in real life. Offline, the people qualified to dish out puns seems to be restricted to dads. Online, people would hardly hesitate to start a pun chain, especially when the people commenting in the thread are anonymous. Perhaps it's because they're anonymous, and also because it's a much lower barrier of entry compared to the crafting of a comedic setup in real life, that these pun chains aren't that rare. Not hard to transition from spectator to participant.

Thirdly, there seems to be more prevalent absurdity online than offline in humour. Seems to be more appreciation of the weird and random on the Internet. And boy is there absurdity and surrealism in a good portion of Internet memes - not the "picture with white capital captions" format, but the viral trending jokes themselves - I mean, an animation of a flying cat with a pop tart body leaving behind a rainbow trial is hardly going to make some stranger to the Internet laugh, and neither is a shirt depicting three wolves howling at a full moon. And yet they took off in their own weird ways and inspired funny content. But they would have only succeeded because of their incubation on the Internet. They would hardly be compatible with IRL humour.

One more poignant observation: the startlingly candid expression of personal grievances in a dark humorous manner online. Dunno if it's because the generations of Internet users are changing and maturing, but there's seemingly an increasing presence of dark humour that I've noticed. Taking a humorous look at anxiety, at life's unfairness, at adult responsibilities... I don't think Internet funniness used to be as frank and unabashed (at least on the websites I perused) as it is today. And this is where Internet humour can converge with comedians' humour. The memorable comedians make sharp stabs at the state of affairs where typical people would avoid commenting on - even if they quietly agree - and paint the issues in a funnier light. I think this is a promising development, since such online jokes can be gateways to healthy open discussion on the same highlighted issues... but this being the Internet, you can also bet on people turning this opportunity into a polarized mud-slinging fight. Oh well.

I'm kinda curious to see how online content would evolve further in this aspect. With greater connectivity and tools for quick content creation, the online comedian's audience will only widen further, the entry barriers will only get shorter, and most definitely the competition would get fiercer. It would take quite a lot to stand out from the humongous sea of constant content creators and accidental one-shot celebrities (Chewbacca mask mom, anyone?).

Aaaaaaand back to the indefinite period of non-activity...