What the fish tube meme tells us about being a millennial

‘Despite all my rage,’ The Smashing Pumpkins once sang, ‘I’m still just a rat in a cage.’

But had he written this song in 2019, Billy Corgan may well have claimed to have been a fish in a tube instead.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet on the last week – which, given it’s 2019, you definitely have – you might have seen everyone losing their minds over some fish. But not just any old fish: these fish, you see, were in a tube.

The salmon cannon, created by Whooshh Innovations, transports fish from one estuary to another. But why? For the sheer devilry of it? Well, no.

Humans messed up the salmon’s natural migration patterns by building a dam, and then built this tube by way of apology – which is frankly the least we could do.

‘The fish tube is more than a meme,’ a stern Vox headline chided us all, ‘it could help save ecosystems’. While that sounds very important, it’s also very boring – so let’s talk about the meme instead.

There have been all sorts of theories posed as to why the tube has been such a big hit among millennials, from the Freudian to the nihilistic. ‘Send us down the tube!’ many of us begged.

Some people considered it a damning indictment of the way we live now, whereas for other it simply wasn’t that deep.

‘I love the fish tube,’ Anna, 23, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I gasped when I first saw it.’

She refuses, however, to see the fish tube as having a wider meaning.

‘I don’t want to intellectualise it,’ she tells us. ‘Just let me have one nice thing. I don’t want to look into the psychology of why.

‘I just want to be happy for the fish,’ she says, pausing thoughtfully before adding: ‘shut my brain off and stick me in the f***ing tube.’

Ah, but why does she want to get in the tube? Is it climate change anxiety? The prospect of a no-deal Brexit? The fact she’ll never own a property?

‘Because I’m exhausted!’ she snaps. ‘Why can’t I just get sucked through life!’

Having goaded Anna into ascribing the meme with the very meaning she’d insisted it didn’t possess, I began to ponder; perhaps our love for the fish tube speaks to a yearning for comfort, or safety, or ease?

For having the burden of existence taken out of our hands and instead simply being swept along like… a fish… in a tube?

Griff, 26, agrees with this interpretation: ‘As with the feral hog, our deep dive into the fish tube is definitely the next level of deep escapism from our spiraling world. We all want to be sucked away from our cruel, unjust, late-capitalist dying planet.’

But the next person we speak to, Mark, 26, refuses to analyse the meme in any way whatsoever: ‘It means nothing to me, as a millennial. People just think it’s funny – it doesn’t speak to some generational ennui. It’s just a weird thing!’

‘Put that in print,’ he adds, his voice dripping with disdain.

Well, the joke is on him because it’s actually going on a website.

While there’s certainly a propensity among under 30s for thinking everything from our love of avocados to the fact we all seem to want to be choked during sex is deep and meaningful, there might just be some truth in the way we use memes to self-soothe through abstract humour. From dank to dark, memes are considered by many academics to be the language of the internet; a visual way to say how we feel, escape, or even try to challenge the status quo.

That’s not the say that every meme will have a similar effect, though. Emma, 27, takes no comfort from the fish tube, nor does she experience any longing to join these piscine pals on their tube-based quest.

Instead, the whole thing simply makes her anxious: ‘It really stresses me out. What if the fish gets stuck? They must be so confused. There’s a real pathos to it.’

According to counsellor Hannah, who works with young people (the primary purveyors of these nonsensical memes and obsessions) these seemingly odd connections to things like fish tubes aren’t all that different to Seinfeld-esque comedy skits of the past.

Hannah tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I think memes are this generation’s “Hey and what is it with _____” style stand-up.

‘They’re also a way to relate and be related to in a way that doesn’t involve speaking to or listening to another human. A totally dehumanised way of human connection, if that makes sense.

‘Also they’re an amazing tool for the recognition that someone feels the same as you, but also to completely minimise all your issues. Which is where the facetious stuff comes in.’

This is when the maths comes in. According to Hannah: ‘The fact that it seems to be 40% of people thinking it looks fun and wanting to be a fish to have a go, 55% thinking it’s a metaphor for being a high functioning GAD (general anxiety disorder) sufferer in a capitalist society and wanting to be a fish to escape it and 5% educating everyone else on the biological makeup of salmon in a tube… that in itself is probably significant enough.’

So maybe the fish tube meme doesn’t signify anything at all. Maybe, as Mark argued, it’s just a funny video.

But on the other hand, when you really think about it, in an age of climate change and ever decreasing living standards, as the world turns to tyranny, aren’t we all merely a fish in a tube?

Probably not, tbh.

Source: Read Full Article