Future generations will have a much better idea of what the internet has done to our brains, but, for now, we can only hazard guesses about how constant exposure to the most incredible communication device ever created is working on our psyches. If photos tweeted out of a 16-year-old boy, just waking up from wisdom tooth surgery and dully writing out the lyrics to Smash Mouth’s “All Star” serve as any indication, the damage being done is greater than we could ever have expected.
The pictures, posted by his mom, show the kid “still stoned” on anesthetic, the drug-clouded part of his consciousness just beginning to stir enough that he “asked for something to write with and documented” Smash Mouth’s immortal words. While there’s some hope that a feeling of vulnerability brought the tormented boy’s memories back to childhood viewings of Shrek, it seems more likely that “All Star” features in so many goddamn memes we’ve all seen that his confused brain grasped onto them as the first sensible concept the world held for him.
We do know that his short-lived interest in writing down David Bowie lyrics, abandoned at the top of the paper, was inspired by the astronaut pen he was given by his mom. If the jump from that object to “Space Oddity” occurred to his hazy brain so quickly, it follows that the journey from a death-like anesthetic void to an agonizing rebirth into the world mirrors the first moment all of us hear the ubiquitous late-’90s pop song.
Or, maybe we can keep maintaining optimism and assume that years of Smash Mouth memes haven’t wormed their way into the same spots of the kid’s mind that usually houses the names of friends, relatives, and family pets. Maybe, if we’re lucky, he just felt the ache of his missing teeth and his anesthetic-soaked brain immediately conjured up a band whose name best reflected his bloody-mouthed torment. Let’s hope this is the case. The alternative—that humanity’s subconscious is now defined by the constant background presence of dumb meme memories—is too frightening to handle.
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