It’s difficult to comprehend that we are already in the eighth month of 2020, a year that seems to have been lost to grief, chaos, and the impermanent indefinite forever. Time itself takes shape not through our previously defined weekly labor calendars but instead is defined through the brief minutiae that transform our lives. We have months lost to staring at the cracks in walls, listening to sirens, and for many of us, it’s difficult to truly “rejoin” as the United States “reopens,” despite all better judgement and as our nation seemingly crumbles, the “you’ve changed” bro meme has hit virality on Twitter dot com. It makes sense that a meme about the past holding you to its own standard of existence would become popular in a time where so many realities are changed forever, inconcievable to ever return to any sort of “normal”, and yet we are all alive and existing through such constant turmoil.
I loved this version of the format because it really played on the fact that, at least if you live in the United States, much of your life has completely and utterly changed, right down to your understanding of human interaction. Animal Crossing coming out during the beginning of the pandemic was my first experience of pandemic specific FOMO (fear of missing out), I even got a diplomat to buy me a switch. Which reminds me, reach out if you want to buy a switch.
Anyway, the origin of the meme isn’t exactly clear at first glance, except that it seems to be extremely popular in the K-Pop community, specifically referencing certain facts about their favorite K-Pop stars, from personal and private info to messed up industry shadiness, as well as just outpourings of love. If you know if the meme format existed in Korean before English, I’d love to know :~) But either way, it’s taken hold on Twitter, as with all meme formats that speak to the absurdity of our time.
Some tweeters used the meme format for some really earnest, healing, and too on the nose jokes, which I love. As someone who makes memes that often deal with themes around boundaries and generational trauma, this really hit. It also speaks to a truth in the meme format when it works well, that the root of the “you’ve changed” bro has to come from a place we wouldn’t want to return to in the first place. I would say that there is a bit of a differentiation on the K-Pop stans (or stans in general) “you’ve changed” bro meme format and those that don’t seem to be associated with stan culture in general. The stan culture version almost always comes as a result of being disappointed by a figure that the user is “stanning,” while the other version of the meme seems to fall into a more fatalistic category, they’ve changed due to the inevitably of circumstances that necessitate change.
This version of the format speaks to that directly, which all in all makes it an incredibly self aware meme. It makes sense that eight months into 2020 we all are recognizing the inevitable and very real ways the year has forced us to change, whether on minor levels or the inevitable consequences of a capitalist system that wasn’t meant to serve us, failing us. Many people in the United States are going to fall victim to increased levels of poverty, housing instability, food instability, and so forth going into this next decade. We are already adapting at rates beyond what we had previously thought conceivable but here we are, alive and adapting. This meme format speaks to an understanding of the inevitability of change, and almost a shock at lack of adaptability.
There’s also the more spiritual take to the meme format, which even though maybe a little cheesy, is also ultimately true. As if we are not already adapting to the never-ending forces of capitalism (entering and leaving jobs homes lives), we are also ultimately all becoming as people on our short spans on Earth, even in a way that is not contingent on a reactive event. We are already changing every day.
An example of stan culture “you’ve changed” being based often in some level of bitterness towards that who is stanned, as well as two honorable mentions because I like them. It’s also important to note that “bro” in this meme should ultimately be read as reactionary always to the “you’ve changed,” it is never “you’ve changed bro” but “you’ve changed” “bro_____.” This is important because it defines the actors in the meme format, and also prefaces something that tends to be very blunt and earnest. This isn’t a meme to beat around the bush with yet instead the more painfully truthful, the more popular.
Obviously, not every version of the meme follows the format to a T (as is the nature of memes) but are still funny, such as the one above. Ultimately, we all change both out of choice and necessity, adapting as the world around us transforms. Even walking throughout my neighborhood in Brooklyn, I watch the grass overgrow and the vines take over the buildings and I can’t recall a more perfect summer day. I miss what life used to be, I miss who I used to be, but I’ve changed as has the city and all of our lives. Here I am, reconciling with the inevitability of time.