Here We Go Again

Here We Go Again

Lies spread faster than the truth and social media has only served to exacerbate this phenomenon. The unique nature of social media allows for an unprecedented diffusion of content in a manner that anything from fast fashion to true and false news can be spread. In such a way, memes have embodied the phenomenon on Twitter and similar sites, relating certain ideas together from person to person often within specific subcultures ? particularly, they convey certain meanings that are often comedic in nature that represent their virality. Furthermore, the success of a meme is unique and comparable to biology due to ?their? response to selective pressures such as popularity, with memes that spread the most through variation, competition, and mutation experiencing the success of propagation similar to that of natural selection.

Image for postCarl ?CJ? Johnson?s aforementioned scene | Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Memes evolve on Twitter quite rapidly; every week it seems as if each corner of the Internet is competing to make a certain one popular. As a result, when memes transcend popularity, multiple groups can experience the initial unilateral message in different ways. Recently a meme became popular on Twitter that referenced the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In the meme, which was originally a still image but was later adapted to a green screen video edit, the main protagonist Carl ?CJ? Johnson finds himself in a corrupt neighborhood after being blackmailed by police offers. As he walks through the alley, he says, ?Ah shit, here we go again. Worst place in the world, Rolling Heights Ballas country. I ain?t represented Grove Street in 5 years, but the Ballas won?t give a shit.?

However, this scene occurred in 2004, more than fifteen years before it actually became viral on Twitter and went through numerous variations. Regardless, in the time since then, the scene seemed ?dormant? and never really realized its comedic potential; in late 2018, the image spread online across small forums internationally and on specific subreddits on the discussion website, Reddit. The meme still saw moderate growth with slight variations featuring the main character replaced or the background changed, but none matched the impact that Twitter user ?@ChaoticGeekGG? had: the user uploaded a green screen edit of the video game?s scene, providing a mutation to the aforementioned form of natural selection of a meme, in effect allowing for so much more variation and opportunity to apply the meme Posted on the third of April in 2019, the following week proved immense for the meme, as the green screen video was edited over videos of social phenomena, video games, news articles, and more.

Image for postFrank Ocean, Carl ?CJ? Johnson, and Twitter memes | Twitter @topherth

Twitter user ?@topherth,? was one of the first on the platform to adapt the green screen video, editing it over the album cover of Frank Ocean?s, Blonde, with the song ?Nights? playing in the background while the song changes beats, marking exactly half of Blonde?s 60-minute length. Carl ?CJ? Johnson saying ?ah shit, here we go again? alludes to the melancholy tone of Blonde and ?Nights,? as most listeners of Frank Ocean listen to his music due to his deep emotional lyricism and duality that is often experienced by many teenagers and young adults today.

Image for postTwitter users divided into communities, with words typical of each | Bryden et al.

Carl ?CJ? Johnson?s frustration is one that is easily relatable. The endless possibilities of this statement and ease of consumption offer insight as to why Twitter took the quote and ran with it. Twitter additionally seems to have a propensity to form communities and networks around certain topics. What is so transcendent about Johnson?s frustration is that the meme itself effectively ignores these hierarchical communities and goes above and beyond, applying itself to a multitude of situations and in-groups. One community might use an example of the meme with a very specific reference to French colonial forces and the army of France while another community might use the meme to reference the healthcare system of the United States. Regardless of the reference, they all use the base meme of Johnson?s, ?ah shit, here we go again.? In the case of the French meme, it pokes fun at France?s reputation for surrendering while the healthcare meme ridicules the American healthcare system and highlights its high costs and premiums by channeling Carl ?CJ? Johnson?s frustration in saying, ?ah shit, here we go again.?

A relationship between human language, social networks, and human emotion can be drawn from the experience of this meme. Its unique nature suggests a commonality that through the study of online communication can give insight to the emotions of modern generations. How people have shaped this meme to fit their aforementioned communities has in turn led to this meme shaping certain people by so very well relating and fitting their emotional expectations. Today?s hyper-public media environment that conflates privacy and publicity warrants a framework to apply to the concept of memes as a whole. Social media communications are often discussed in modern media channels, and the constant changing state of the Internet may indeed make researchers and those discussing the subject think, ?ah shit, here we go again.?


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