Speaking as someone whose widely-accepted catchphrase is “relatable content only”—so widely accepted, in fact, that one of my friends made me a custom keychain with that phrase—I consider myself a major player in the internet-born phenomenon of “relating” to everything and anything.
An example of this phenomenon: one of my friends saw an upside-down, dented traffic cone and immediately ran over to it and yelled, “Look, it’s me!”
Now, to some people that might sound… a little weird, but the internet phenomenon of relating to everything and anything is huge. It’s a fun hybrid mash-up of the self-deprecating humor that’s reached new heights with this generation, and, trust me, I’m cringing while I write it myself, meme culture. Those two things have intersected to create a culture of expressed relatability.
Memes encourage the practice of taking a photo, GIF or video and applying it to another situation. This custom, combined with the token self-deprecating humor, means that every time someone drops something or trips near me, I respond immediately with “same” or “me” or “relatable content only.” Some people even use this type of humor to define themselves. One of my friends is known for relating to the most random things, and yet all of us understand how a single stick poking out from the snow can be relatable when we’re walking home from the library at 2 a.m.
I’ve seen the idea spattered across the internet—mostly from the older generation, but not exclusively—that this phenomenon stems from a basely narcissistic viewpoint of the world held by the teen and young adult demographics. It’s argued that only the narcissistic youth could see anything and make it about them; I don’t think those people fully grasp the point of this phenomenon.
It’s true that some people perhaps overuse the phrase. I might even be one of those people. Any overuse can become annoying, but the phenomenon itself, at least in my opinion, doesn’t stem from wholly narcissistic viewpoint. For those who think that it does, I urge you to look at how much of that “relatable content” is positive and how much of it is trash cans, broken items and upside-down dented traffic cones. Maybe that’s the real phenomenon we should be concerned with.
Paulina Martz is a second-year theater and psychology major. She one day hopes to trademark the phrase “Relatable Content Only” and become famous for trying to trademark a phrase for personal use.