Jokes and memes play a quite an integral role in our watch community culture. @nycwatchguy, @watchumor, @watch.memes are a few pages that produce comedic gold for our horological sensibilities. But what do they do beyond make us all laugh?
Across the board, humor has always been a key function in culture and its development. Yet it’s rarely ever taken up seriously as an object of study. We’ve only seen a handful of major historical intellectual figures engage on the topic including Plato, Kant, Hobbes, Freud, and a few others.
If we narrow it down to Internet memes – a subgenre of humor – the impulse to dismiss it is even greater. However, as Internet culture becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, there is an increasing number of academic writing on memes. So much so that I will not be able to cover everything on watch memes in this post.
But what I do want to address is this: for anyone that does investigate humor, one thing is certain – humor isn’t simple entertainment to help us overcome boredom. And the same goes for watch memes.
Internet memes and the power of humor
Memes are inseparable from the Internet, so it’s no surprise that there is a watch meme culture in our online communities. But it should be said that the term “Internet meme” did not originally have comedic associations. As Mike Godwin, the person who coined the term, writes in 1994:
Two and a half decades later, the association between “Internet meme” and comedy has become so strong that “Internet meme” and “Internet joke” are almost synonymous. I find this interesting because it is a testament to the power of humor. Ideas travel faster when they’re conveyed via jokes, similar to how stories are more memorable than mere facts and data. No one likes being left out of a joke.
So, what ideas are propagating across the watch community?
Jokes, memes, and watches
For as long as one can go back on Instagram, jokes and memes have recognized a whole spectrum of taboos and sticky subjects in the watch world. To name a few, we have waitlists, the financialization of watches, integrity of watch journalism, watch fanaticism gone too far, as well as some exceptionally specific ones, the Genta-fication of modern watch design and the struggles of watch industry marketing. It appears as if every hot ticket issue in our community surfaces first as a joke before appearing anywhere else (if at all).
For anyone following watch jokes and memes, one could even say that the most recent community scandals – Perezscope ousting Panerai and Hodinkee’s travel clock – were fairly predictable, or least, latent issues identified by watch comedy long ago. And therein lies the crux of the impact memes have on the watch community: watch memes recognize what is often otherwise unsaid.
Freud observed the relationship between jokes and taboo and rebellion in The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious:
In this way, humor renders the grievances of collectors and enthusiasts benign and tolerable (in most cases). “It’s okay as long as it’s a joke,” says the butt of every meme with an awkward cringe. But there is subversion to real communal dynamics in jokes and memes – this is Freud’s idea that jokes are a way of communicating hostility, engaging directly with a taboo. There’s something in always laughing the hardest at the watch memes that are the most true. As a matter of fact, the brands, journalists, secondary market dealers, influencers, flippers, and everyone else could gather all the information they need to understand popular grievances, if each only pretended memes weren’t a joke.
Bringing the community together
Aside from raising issues in the community, watch memes also help us form tighter bonds. Jokes are a way to create a new language that identifies us as fellow watch collectors and fanatics.
Of course, Internet memes, including watch memes, are not without its limits. Similar to how memes have helped fuel harmful ideas such as racism and sexism, there is a potential for memes in the watch community to get out of hand too. This is how toxic communities are born. Not all taboos are worth prodding with humor. While I haven’t seen anything that bad go around, I hope we are mature and self-aware enough to never let dangerous memes tear our community apart.
I’ve mentioned many times through articles here that there is a need for more critical analysis in the watch community. What I didn’t realize until recently is that we might be able to infer the appetite for critical engagement from the ubiquity of watch jokes and memes. Right beneath my nose, the propagation of jokes and memes has primed the community to dig deeper into these issues – there’s a latent critical mood in humor.
As I see it, jokes and analysis play a similar role – they both soften the bluntness of truth. The distance between truth and pain is widened through comedy in jokes, and logic in analysis. It softens the hostility, disarms taboo, and gets us through recognizing and talking about “difficult” topics.
Watch memes don’t just reveal truth in the watch community and industry as a whole, it is a form of critical analysis that should be taken seriously.
Another day with the beast,