While mindlessly scrolling through Instagram reels, I saw a reuploaded version of a TikTok, in which a TikToker named ‘blan.antho’ was bragging about creating this inside joke. The joke was to get a large group of people to change the laughing emoji with a chair emoji. According to him, this joke spread like wildfire and soon people who were not in on it began to ask what it meant, so much so that the official TikTok account made a video explaining it (mashable.com). Now, this type of phenomenon is not new to the internet. Blan.antho called it an inside joke, but the thing is, as someone who completely missed this event and had to learn about it on a different social media. It seems weird. What is possibly so funny about spamming an emoji?
When you look up the definition of an inside joke in a Merriam-webster’s dictionary, you get the following:
a joke that is understood only by people with special knowledge about something. (Merriam-Webster.com)
To understand an inside joke is to also be a part of something. This means being part of a group of people with who you have formed bonds. But what does it mean when an inside joke gets created with people you don’t know.
Humour is quite a strange way of communicating, it is something that is both universal, but also very specific. In one culture or group it might be hilarious, in the other, it is borderline offensive (Hurley et al. 31-32). So that leads to the question: what makes something, especially something like the chair emoji meme, so funny to such a large group of people.
According to Ted Cohen in his book: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters. When you make a joke or laugh about something. You want other people to join in. Not just because it is funny, but because it confirms that other people also like it and in turn, it confirms that your own likes are valid. Things are just funnier if other people think it is funny too (Hurley et al. 32-34).
The chair emoji meme is not exactly funny in the traditional sense. There is no set-up, no punchline, nothing that traditionally would be used to create a joke. At the end of the day, it is just spamming a particular emoji in the comments. The thing that made it funny to people, was that other people also thought it was funny. To ask what the meaning behind this meme is is futile because it doesn’t mean anything. The point is not the context, it is the perception. Like Cohen said, what makes something even funnier is if other people think it is funny too.
While it might seem silly and honestly pointless, there is certain beauty behind it. In an online landscape where everyone is from different backgrounds and has different senses of humour, it is quite incredible to be able to rally these people behind the simple act of changing a laughing emoji with a chair.
Hurley, M. M., Dennet, D. C. and Adams Jr, R. B., (2011). Inside Jokes : Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind. London: The MIT press. 31-34.