The cartoon virus makes the world a more colorful place

The other day, I realized I probably enjoy Facebook a little too much, or at least for the wrong reasons. The social network super giant makes it almost too easy to creep — or rather keep up with everyone you kinda sorta met one time. Or might someday.

But Facebook is a lovely thing, as much as it is a monster.

It takes the reality of you and puts it up there on the Internet as an abstract thing, an idea a little more pure and a little less sweaty than you actually are.

A recent phenomenon that blew through and much delighted me was the cartooning of people, that is, people replacing their profile pictures with their favorite cartoon character. (I chose Goofy). The reason given was solidarity against child abuse, someway, somehow. “Don’t see a human face until Dec. 6,” or some similar date.

And here was how it seduced you:

  • It required absolutely no sacrifice on your part;
  • It asked, or rather told, you to do something you already wanted to do, that is, pretend to be some figure;
  • It was for a “good” cause that by supporting would bring you absolutely no criticism.

So the cute little movement had everything going for it to turn into a cartoony epidemic, which it shortly did and has since withered away, having accomplished whatever it did.

To follow a somewhat ironic tangent, the cartoon-profile meme was a beautiful illustration of what that great author and unapologetic pederast William S. Burroughs called the “word virus.” Language, he said, is itself a virus and we just don’t notice because it has “achieved a state of stable symbiosis with its host.”

When a word virus tears through society, you can’t always tell. Sometimes it’s a catchy phrase, or a way to dress, or it’s more than a fad, it’s a cause like temperance or salvation. And its success is in how much it can spread and how long it can keep spreading, years or generations.

Some infections are more obvious than others, but nothing so obvious as seeing a list of your friends replaced with the Little Mermaid, Cobra Commander and Wendy Darling. Every hour more of them, every day more status updates urging you to do the same until you figure, why not? You always were a fan of Beauty & the Beast. Without really knowing why, you decide to look like Gaston.

And your infected brain tells your fingers to give a status update explaining why you did this lovely and monstrous thing.

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