Recession Obsession

The Meme Economy Isn’t Crashing, Normies Aren’t the Devil, and Other Myths that can be Solved by Thinking Critically

If you’re reading this article, you probably saw a popular post on r/MemeEconomy which was a clever meta post from a user claiming to have discovered a “new meme format.” However, this format was simply top and bottom impact font text with a reaction image background, a format that of course dominated the market for almost a decade. Garnering almost 20k upvotes, this post jumped to the frontpage on Friday. Before the day was over, it was the top post of the week. Sometime on that day, the post caught the attention of some of Reddit’s social media managers. A screenshot of the image was posted on Reddit’s official Facebook account. Let it be said that credit was given where credit was due. The caption was unedited, the user was mentioned, and a link was provided to the original post. By all means, it would seem fair for a company to share a public post on a social network it created, credit having been given to OP, with an outside audience. However, r/MemeEconomy users seemed to disagree. While it seemed that the “format discovery” post had locked up the week’s top spot, a new post rocketed to the frontpage which shared a screenshot of the Facebook post with the caption “r/MemeEconomy made it to Normiebook. SELL SELL SELL THE ENTIRE FUCKING SUBREDDIT.” This post skyrocketed to the frontpage, with 25k upvotes and a gold by late Saturday. It was 90% upvoted. None of the other top 10 posts of the week had a better upvote percentage, or more upvotes. Comments on the post were generally along the same line: “This is the end.” “SELL SELL SELL!” “This is the great meme recession we all feared.” “My family lost everything.” etc. etc. etc. Very few, if any, challenged the assertion made by the post: that r/MemeEconomy being mentioned on Facebook is the end of meme trading as we know it.

The Meme Economy Isn’t Crashing

The meme economy isn’t going to crash because of that Facebook post. That’s the first issue to clear up. Traders need not fear for their holdings, and investors everywhere need not liquefy their assets. It seems that every time an outside source discovers the meme economy, users go absolutely crazy in a brief period of karma-whoring posts that invariably contain the word “sell” written three times in all caps accompanied by a varying number of exclamation marks. These posts accomplish nothing in the way of contribution to the meme economy, and if anything they actually increase market volatility. Incessantly yelling at traders to sell everything is far worse for the markets than whatever it is that traders should be selling everything because of. Yet consistently, and with increasing popularity, posts yell at normies and call for shutting down the subreddit to protect assets. In comment sections, users discuss where to move to now that the great recession has finally happened and r/MemeEconomy has been poisoned by the unstoppable force of “normie invasion.” Meta posts spring up describing ways to “fix the subreddit.” As I’ll touch on later, many of these suggestions are regressive and would accomplish nothing for the subreddit or the meme economy as a whole. Instead, they just increase the hostility of the current user base towards new users and try to further isolate themselves from “normies.” I, for one, wonder about the endgame of this particularly vocal portion of r/MemeEconomy users. Is it ultimately to report on memes without anyone taking notice? To weed out the “normies” in the community and create a master race of “meme experts?” Be it complete anonymity or ethnic cleansing, neither would have a positive impact on the market. In this way, r/MemeEconomy users are some of the biggest hypocrites of a very hypocritical internet. While they constantly whine about normies “stealing our memes” and “invading our subreddit,” their shitposts do nothing but increase market volatility and decrease collective knowledge of the meme market. This all despite the fact that the meme economy isn’t crashing, and never will, for the simple reason that it can’t. A memes value is directly tied to its popularity- and some meme will always be popular. An economy built on discrete bits of culture can’t simply collapse- only change. The Law of Conservation of Mass states that matter can be neither created nor destroyed, only change forms. Similarly, the Law of Conservation of Memes states that dankness has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to exist, albeit in different forms.

It’s More than Buy or Sell

In George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 , language is on its way to being completely replaced with “newspeak”- simplified English that makes it impossible for people to have original thoughts. r/MemeEconomy began after it was theorized that Pepe’s value would fall after he was declared a hate symbol. This observation was fresh, it was new, and it required critical thinking. Today, however, posts say either “Buy” or “Sell” with no explanation or analysis. This is meme newspeak- with only two words to pick from, posters pick one and go with it based on whichever social media site they most recently saw the image they chose to post. This prevents any real creativity or theory from being presented in frontpage posts. When a post hits rising with a title like “Meme spotted on iFunny, SELL SELL SELL,” no discussion occurs in the comments. Rarely does anyone point out that meta or ironic variants of the meme could still be profitable, or that the meme appearing on a different site is a fluke and can be mostly ignored. Never does anyone suggest that a meme appearing on iFunny doesn’t mean that it is dead in its tracks. This comes from many users’ lack of understanding of the nuances of the market. Many people discover the subreddit and, of course, set to browsing its content. For the most part, they notice that certain sites are associated with meme stagnation and others with meme growth. Then, when they feel qualified to participate, they make similar posts. This cycle creates an ever-louder echo chamber not unlike those all over the internet, from r/The_Donald to r/LateStageCapitalism. However, the r/MemeEconomy echo chamber is unique in one respect: new users have no preconceived ideas and ideologies surrounding the subject matter. For example, almost every internet user already has some opinion about American politics. When they encounter a community with opposite opinions, they can disagree with the users and thus introduce alternate opinions which must at least be discussed. However, most newcomers to the Meme Economy don’t have prefabricated ideas about memetic theory. This being the case, they are inevitably swept up by the circlejerk and develop opinions that align with those of the subreddit’s existing readers. Since all new users quickly form the same opinions as current users, it is next to impossible for any real discussion to occur on the subreddit. Thus, the stream of “BUY BUY BUY” and “SELL SELL SELL” posts can only end by stepping back and understanding that the meme economy is more complicated than that. While today’s average user might truly believe that iFunny = sell invariably, those who truly understand the meme economy know better. Some Facebook pages unarguably signal that a meme is far past its prime, but others may indicate that it is about to blow up. The important takeaway is that it varies- there is no one-size-fits-all formula to determine whether to buy or sell a meme. This includes the “Normies = Dead” formula, which brings me to my next point.

Normies are the Meme Economy’s Most Important Resource

This idea has received more recognition by r/MemeEconomy lately, but strong rhetoric still exists in opposition to it. Anyone who understands the market knows that “normies” are the ultimate goal of any big meme- they are the biggest, most easily manipulated, most readily available audience that consumes memes at a higher rate than any other. On many r/MemeEconomy posts, a user will comment “Don’t invest. While the meme is good, it can be normified quickly.” This sentiment gives the poster the completely wrong idea. “Buy low, sell high” should be the mantra of every meme trader, and he words “as quickly as possible” can be just as easily appended to the phrase. Thus, “can be normified quickly” should be words of encouragement to buy a meme as soon as possible but be prepared to sell. A meme that is emerging and can be normified quickly is the holy grail of investments- massive ROI in a very short time period. Instead of tossing aside formats that have a high potential for “normification,” these excellent investments should be the first choice of any trader. While edgier, more obscure memes may enjoy a longer life span, economists that prefer these are missing the point. We should all be on the lookout for formats that can easily be picked up and understood by the general populace.

To take a look at the opposite side of things, r/MemeEconomy users will often make a post with a title “Very edgy, normies won’t pick up on it.” Users will generally comment their agreement, recommending that the OP buys and holds onto the meme. Thinking about these exchanges for even a couple of seconds reveals the underlying fallacy. A user says “This meme has almost no chance of becoming popular, therefore I will include in my portfolio.” Instead of contradicting the user, commenters generally agree and support the OP’s viewpoint. What both participants in this exchange fail to realize is that low potential for “normification” is the exact opposite of what traders should be looking for in new formats. Depending on your portfolio’s risk tolerance, you’ll want either nice slow burners or explosive buy quick, sell quick trends that can send your value soaring up or crashing down. In either case, if your meme never makes it to the so-called “normie” markets, it was a bad investment. In this way, normies are what keep the meme economy afloat and investor’s portfolios successfully. Decrying normies just makes the economy more volatile, which today’s r/MemeEconomy users seem intent on doing.

r/MemeEconomy is Not the Meme Economy

/wallstreetbets isn’t the stock market. That’s pretty obvious. However, many seem to think that r/MemeEconomy is the meme economy. This is evidenced by the fact that users equate the “crash” of the subreddit following the Facebook post to a “crash” of the meme economy as a whole. Even if r/MemeEconomy shuts down, the economy itself will continue to function. Many parts of it would likely be left entirely unaffected. It’s easy to forget that there are corners of the meme economy that are unaware that r/MemeEconomy exists. Every day people discover the subreddit and write it off as absurdist satire. In a way, no matter how serious it gets, it is. At the moment, r/MemeEconomy exerts no real influence over the market outside of its 325k subscribers. Within Reddit, because of the user overlap, the subreddit can make trends more volatile as it constantly recommend to either buy or sell. But on Facebook, Instagram, iFunny, and even some dark corners of Reddit, r/MemeEconomy has no solid foothold. Don’t let your subscribership to the subreddit inflate its importance in your investment strategy. Like it or not, the meme economy will always continue to operate independently of whatever analysis or shitposting goes on within the relatively small community of meme economists and traders. The economy itself does not even remotely depend on the poorly thought out analysis of r/MemeEconomy users. Don’t let the subreddit’s inevitable discovery by outside sources convince you that the entire meme economy is headed towards disaster.

Gatekeeping is Not the Answer

Gatekeeping, if you haven’t heard the term, refers to the members of a community barring newcomers from entering, or setting requirements for being a “real” member. A common example is “real fans would know that…” for a TV show, sports team, or something similar. There’s a popular subreddit, r/gatekeeping, that never seems to run out of content. A quick look at the state of r/MemeEconomy today will show you why. In response to the Facebook post I mentioned in the introduction, one of the most repeated suggestions deals with barring new users from entering the subreddit and accusing them of being normies. A post that called out newcomers and promised “simple steps” to be “well on your way” to understanding the meme economy essentially told these people “Go fuck yourself.” Before being removed as a violation of r/MemeEconomy’s Rule 2, it gathered 40 upvotes in just under an hour. A commenter linked r/gatekeeping, but the downvotes and the response indicated users’ attitude toward this. A second commenter responded, saying “If we don’t gatekeep, the sub will be flooded by normies and all our assets will go down astronomically in value. Do you want another great meme depression?” While the initial comment was downvoted, the response was upvoted until the thread was locked and the post deleted. The response is built on the false assumption that there is some river of normies and gatekeeping meme economics is the dam holding it back from destroying the fragile economy. Almost every aspect of this metaphor is flawed. First, there isn’t some massive group of normies co-conspiring to destroy the meme economy that is held back by the magical power of a couple of strongly worded Reddit posts. Second, gatekeeping isn’t as much like a rock-solid dam holding back a torrential river as it is a couple of larger-than-average stones tossed lazily into a stream. Lastly, and most importantly, the meme economy isn’t some fragile river town in imminent danger from the coming “flood of normies.” It’s foundations are so solid that they cannot be destroyed by anything, least of all newcomers curious about the market but not yet fully understanding of it. Gatekeeping just further isolates r/MemeEconomy from the meme economy itself, and exacerbates a problem that doesn’t have to exist. As crazy as it sounds, the “normie problem” wouldn’t be a problem at all except for meme traders’ anti-normie circlejerk. When newcomers come to the subreddit, they should be introduced to different ideas about meme economics. Based on these, they can form their own opinions and be able to contribute rationally to discussion from a unique and organic viewpoint. This is the ultimate “filter” of new users that those calling for a blanket ban are missing. Right now, new users can either join the echo chamber or be ridiculed. It’s much easier, of course, just to say what everyone else is saying. This is why the r/MemeEconomy has had so many bad posts upvoted to the frontpage recently- new users aren’t pressured to make any real decisions on what to upvote or downvote. If they are pressured, by seeing varying opinions on the frontpage, then they will either give up and leave or draw their own conclusions. Either way, the result is one that a blanket ban cannot accomplish. Presenting different viewpoints on issues of memetic theory, or just legitimate discussion of whether to buy or sell a meme, is the key to better content aggregation. If organic discussion is encouraged, a better curated frontpage and a more informed user base is the only possible result.

u/TheFalconGuy

One of the higher-effort, but still misguided, posts that hit the frontpage in the wake of the drama was entitled “The economy has failed.” The post claimed that Laissez-Faire meme economics was no longer viable and that the only solution was implementing a five-step plan. This plan, quoted verbatim from u/TheFalconGuy’s post, is:

  1. Lock down the subreddit.
  2. Begin implementing quality control measures, such as banning known normies, blocking posts with normie features, and having certified meme investors.
  3. Post new regulations where everyone can see.
  4. Unlock subreddit for testing.
  5. Go back to step 1 and repeat if testing fails.

Posts like this show that low-effort karma grabs aren’t the scourge of the subreddit, but instead it is the attitude of many users toward the mythical group called “normies.” The post had received almost 300 upvotes at the time of my writing this, and the comments indicated a general agreement with the sentiment presented. This attitude is part of the problem with today’s r/MemeEconomy, and I’d like to go over each step and explain the problem with ideas like this.

  1. Locking down the subreddit accomplishes exactly 0. It just encourage the anti-normie circlejerk that has gone on too long without anyone bothering to question the legitimacy of its motivations. It’s also highly ironic when considered seriously- a subculture dedicated to analyzing and predicting other subcultures doing its best to shut out everyone not already a part of the community. Additionally, the subreddit already has almost 325k subscribers. Obviously not all of these are experts on memetic theory. If the sub really was set to private, it would be exclusively a way for the mods to by time as they respond to pressure from users.
  2. This is the big one. “Banning known normies” is a ridiculous idea. Not only is “normie” about as subjective as a term gets, who is responsible for banning normies? No doubt more moderators would have to be added, resulting in a blank check for mods to ban anyone they disagree with. Totalitarianism is not the answer here. Similarly, “blocking posts with normie features” is vague and unrealistic. I for one would consider most posts on the subreddit today to have “normie features.” Any post that screams “Buy” or “Sell” without solid analysis to back it up has “normie features” because it displays a lack of understanding of the nuances of the meme economy. Lastly, having “certified meme investors” is not specific enough to really mean anything. As one of the original journalists for Meme Insider, I’m about as certified as a meme investor can get. And when I feel it is necessary, I give my credentials and comment on a post or make one myself. By browsing the subreddit and drawing intelligent conclusions about the market from posts and comments, any r/MemeEconomy reader can be a “certified meme investor.”
  3. This is a little too vague to refute, as clearly the mods already use the sidebar and the sticky tool to make announcements when necessary.
  4. Using the subreddit as a test environment for a set of autocratic rules goes against the idea of a subreddit in general. There’s no need for a community to lock out newcomers just to sort out issues about internal rhetoric- it just intensifies said rhetoric to the point that it drives away not just newcomers, but current members.
  5. No specific set of rules is suddenly going to “work” at “fixing” the meme economy. No economic system has ever succeeded by shutting its borders and trying the same thing over and over to the point of total collapse.

Don’t Lose Faith in Free Markets

Besides shutting down the subreddit and purging normies, another common response to the recent “tragedy” was the rejection of classical Laissez-Faire meme economics. The first problem with this is the idea that meme economists have any control over the meme market. By its very nature it is anarchic and by definition it cannot be controlled. It is arrogant and frankly ridiculous for r/MemeEconomy users to think that they can be the “saviors” of a “failing” market with economic policies like a stimulus of high-quality memes or a blanket ban to prevent the “normie influx.” As I stated earlier, the economy itself will continue to operate despite the best efforts of a small community of meme economists. Memes are being monetized by sites including YouTube and Instagram, and content creators aren’t going to stop because some Redditors are telling them that their content is “hurting the market.” If you reject Laissez-Faire, you reject the idea of the meme economy as a whole. It is organic, dynamic, and uncontrollable. It cannot be tamed by the same policies that put a leash on conventional economics. Instead, every idea is brought to its often ridiculous conclusion. Meme economics is built on the idea that trends in cultural are quantifiable and predictable, but claiming that they are controllable is a misstep in this line of thinking. Trying to exert influence over the markets can only end in disaster. Losing faith in the free meme market as a viable system of content aggregation makes the current problem worse by introducing memes that are by definition “forced.” Memes are too organic and (almost) unpredictably weird to be harnessed by any sort of policy, and buying into this rhetoric is misleading and wrong.

Normies Are Just an Abstraction, and Can’t be Blamed

Much of the r/MemeEconomy drama is caused by a simple confusion over what a “normie” is. Unfortunately, many seem to believe that normies are a static group of malicious internet users intent on stealing and devaluing each new trend. Instead, who a “normie” is depends on your perspective. Anyone’s definition of a normie is equally valid, because a normie is simply someone who is out of the loop. To the bodybuilding subculture, many of us would be out of the loop about trends and customs. Similarly, normies as described by r/MemeEconomy users are simply people out of the loop about the trends and customs of the meme economics subculture. Normies aren’t a specific group of people, but rather an abstraction that can be applied to anyone in relation to anything. We’re all normies to someone, and everyone’s a normie to us. If normies are an abstraction, it is obviously impossible to squarely blame them for the downward trend in r/MemeEconomy post quality. As tough as it is to confront, that leaves nobody but ourselves. We’ve become too absorbed in our own irony to recognize good from bad, leading to a poorly curated frontpage that barely scratches the surface of memetic theory. So before lazily writing off the community’s problems to normies, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re a bigger part of the problem.

The “Normie Invasion” Is an Orwellian Myth

To draw another parallel to 1984, the constant threat of “normie invasion” is Orwell’s endless war that distracts the public from the problems at hand and writes the leaders a blank check for the “war effort.” Similarly, the looming but ultimately nonexistent threat of a normie invasion is a way to keep the shitposts coming and the karma flowing around r/MemeEconomy. Instead of comparing ideas and drawing new conclusions about meme economics, users need only start up a war cry or come up with a brilliant new way to fight back against the coming hordes. This distracts from the practical problem of developing memetic theory, as well as makes sure that low-effort shitposts consistently garner more upvotes than high-effort text posts that present real ideas about the state of the meme economy. This keep users in constant fear of the normies and discourages users from making high-effort posts or content. The “normie invasion,” just like Orwell’s endless wars against Eastasia, is the perfect distraction that keeps users and citizens fearful and complacent. Getting rid of the myth of the normie invasion is an important step on the path towards encouraging legitimate discourse and discouraging shitposting on r/MemeEconomy.

Think Before You Post

Congratulations on making it this far. Whether or not you’ve read my entire rant, I’d like to leave you with one final request. Before you post or comment on r/MemeEconomy, ask yourself if the opinion is a rational one that you came up with yourself, or a mindless call into the echo chamber that is the subreddit today. When you see a post requesting an evaluation or asking whether to buy or sell, put thought and effort into a well-crafted explanation. Discourage hatred of normies with no explanation. If you disagree with anything I’ve written here, by all means make your view known. We can get ourselves back on track, but we need to make sure that r/MemeEconomy is not just an echo chamber, but a place where veterans and newcomers alike can have rational, engaging discussion about memes and meme economics. Don’t forget the subreddit’s founding principles, and thanks for reading.

-u/toastmeme69

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