Posted on April 5, 2022 in Technology

Some Trends Die When They Leak Out of Containment

Out of Touch (Out of Time)

Out of Touch Thursday refers to a popular Tumblr post which features four schoolchildren from the anime series ‘Lucky Star’ dancing to ‘Out of Touch’ by Hall and Oates. Is it Out of Touch Thursday today? It is if that video appears on the dashboard. The original joke was that the Lucky Star dance went to anything, and over time it simply transmuted into the Thursday meme. A similar song about Kanye West (which is NSFW) featuring Sans from the Indie game Undertale and Nagito from a Japanese visual novel known as DanganRonpa dancing with lightswords from the Halo game series appeared on Sunday until Tumblr’s NSFW ban kicked it for foul language. Other days of the week have some memes, but none have reached the size or longevity of the Out of Touch Thursday meme. What’s really special about Out of Touch Thursday is that it can’t escape Tumblr’s containment, meaning it can’t be overplayed – other day-of-the-week memes were not so lucky and died on impact to TikTok.

Jokes that are universally funny and jokes that don’t translate

Out of Touch Thursday is inherently uneditable – the joke is that you see it on Thursday because the blogs you follow have reblogged it. It has to be Lucky Star, because Lucky Star syncs up, and it has to be Out of Touch, because that’s what the event is called. Anyone trying to share it on a platform like Tumblr only has to reblog it. TikTok, on the other hand, would force you to re-post it every time you wanted to show it. And, even if you follow a TikToker willing to repost this every Thursday, the way the FYP on TikTok works means that you may not see it on Thursday, but Friday or Saturday, which means it isn’t Out of Touch Thursday anymore. The joke just does not work with TikTok’s format. So it sticks to Tumblr and sometimes Twitter.

On the other hand, the Ides of March, which has a buildup period to it like a holiday, is shared across both platforms because both can make jokes about the stabbing of Julius Caesar in any format. Transferrable jokes have to be concepts, not specific images or videos, to have cross-platform viability.

Flat X Friday on TikTok

I’m not sure I saw anybody even try Out of Touch Thursday, but I definitely did see Flat X Friday get forced into video format. It didn’t go well. The original meme has a swear in it, so I’m not going to show it on this nice business professional website, but it’s a picture of a flat, wide alligator in a zoo simply laying on the ground, titled with blocky text “It’s Flat F*** Friday”. The joke works best as a picture – how would you even add audio or visual movement to this incredibly simple joke? Look, the gator’s flat. Also, it’s Friday. It alliterates. It’s one of those jokes that’s not even super funny the first time you see it, you may snort because it’s got a swear in it, reblog, and then continue scrolling.

Anyway, the answer was that if you did want to convert it, you’d have to be more creative than simply ripping the jpeg straight from Tumblr and slapping some obviously quickly-made music over it and doing the bare minimum to sing the words to it, which is the version I saw. Adding audio and moving video to a very simple gut-punch image of a flat alligator sucked the life out of the original joke by giving the viewer too much time to look at it. It ruined the simple, snappy energy of the block text.

TikTok to Everywhere Else

While chronological jokes can’t transfer to TikTok unless they’re broader than specific days, some things work better on other sites because of the format vs. the culture of TikTok. For example, there’s The Squill’s PS5 video, a video where he goes on an absolutely insane rant pretending to be a PS5 in response to a ‘jealous girlfriend’ doing a verse challenge, where the original poster sings part of a song and invites a ‘duet’ to finish it. It works great in video, but it doesn’t easily transmute into text or image.

This one actually did better on Tumblr and Twitter than TikTok, because the joke was that the video was a completely insane response to a duet request, not that it was good music – people in the comments of the original video were complaining that it didn’t rhyme, when the whole point was that the “PS5” was nearly incoherent in it’s attempts to get you, the viewer, to ditch the girl in favor of it. He’s half-shrieking. While it wasn’t funny to TikTok, it was hilarious to Tumblr. Any platform that can host videos can hijack the TikTok jokes that go unappreciated. While not this video, there are many times the TikTok jokes can even be taken as a still frame out of the video because of the app’s love of captions, which started as a courtesy for deaf (et. al.) viewers and became part of the common format. That said, not every joke is easy to download and then take somewhere else, same as it was for Tumblr.

TikTok Jokes that Don’t Work Elsewhere

TikTok does have formats that work for it and it alone!

The video game Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach has a line where two characters argue about where one of them is supposed to be. There are, now, around 80 spinoffs of the joke, and it’s crossed a huge amount of digital turf on TikTok… and TikTok only. You’ll occasionally spot people asking for the source in the comments, meaning it’s gotten out of the original circle of the FNaF fandom it started in, but people still recognize the trend, just not the game. These are videos that absolutely would not be funny on Tumblr or anywhere else without the context given by the other several dozen audios, just like Flat X Friday wasn’t funny on TikTok without Tumblr’s context.

It really does go both ways. The ecosystem may have changed, but it’s just as complex as it’s always been, and every environment has something special and untransmutable to it. So just let those things be untransmutable – not everything has to be shared!