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Basically, this is the bullying, baying Internet that we've become
People throw rocks at things that shine - Ours, Taylor Swift
IF you aren't one of Taylor's many Swifties, did you cringe at that opening quote? Maybe you did. You might legitimately resent her exhortation to "shake it off", which is fine. But it is also likely that the Internet made your mind up about Ms Swift without your knowing it.
I'll explain. This week*, I discovered the term "Basic Bitch". This is a pejorative term for girls who unthinkingly follow trends that are easily dismissed as overly mainstream or trite.
A Basic girl loves her pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, wears Ugg boots and puts all her brunch photos on Instagram. She is highly likely to be a Taylor Swift fan. According to Redditors, the Singaporean Basic girl likes llaollao yogurt and uses quotes like "Not all who wander are lost" on Instagram, but has been no further than Sentosa island.
If you remain unsure, there is a 119-item BuzzFeed checklist with which you can diagnose yourself and a CollegeHumor video that jokingly presents basicness as a disease.
The male version is called a "Basic Bro". I did not extensively research this, but I suspect they are that new breed of fellows I see walking around with shoes but no socks.
There is an ugly undercurrent to the Basic Bitch label, even if you do not consider the epithet in the second half of it.
Basic is such an insidiously unloaded term that it can be loaded up with any ammunition of choice - contempt for a fermented dessert, sweet drink or tired saying - and launched as a salvo at someone else's intrinsic worth. Public shaming is an ancient concept, but this is the most arbitrary and pointless variation that I have seen.
This derision of conformity is also as dated as ordering only eggs Benedict at brunch - apparently another Basic thing. (What people have against Hollandaise sauce, I don't know).
In the '40s, the traditional crowd was called "square". By the '90s, people with boring and suburban tastes were called "beige".
In the noughties, there was an evolution in the name-calling. The popular girls who dressed and behaved alike in Mean Girls were called "the Plastics" - they were the titular villains, not the bullied. So, this was the turning point where the indie crowd and the unpopular started to take back the conversation.
With the Basic insult, we have come full circle - to be innocently trendy is now uncool. (To be merely uncool is still uncool, as of print-time).
We have become people with an intolerance for anything that is too visible. Does it make sense to anyone that both hipsters - taunted for trying to be different - and Basic girls - sneered at for trying to fit in - are considered fair game?
You can't be anything now without incurring loathing. We have all become mean girls. No wonder Ms Swift sang "Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate".
It is difficult to decide if we would have reached this judgmental nadir without the Internet. Perhaps we would have simply found another medium with which to efficiently bully others.
The prevailing theory is that the Internet merely magnifies existing base behaviour. But, so what? It's an unhelpful observation.
Five years ago, it was possible to think of the Internet and real life as two distinct things. Today, the Internet is real life. It's no longer necessary to say you've hurt someone online, like it didn't count. You've simply hurt someone.
In fact, what happens online now carries more weight than anything said in private. Without the hivemind of the Internet to distort events and compress it into a GIF image, did something even really happen?
There are other consequences, too. It has become harder to exercise your own mind on anything, with all the noise a million faceless and baying netizens are making. The most valid opinion now is the most easily digestible one, the one fine-tuned to get the most upvotes and most likes even if it is structurally unsound.
It is even trickier to express your made-up mind, because another million faceless and baying netizens will disagree with you, dig up your home address and make police reports. Everybody loses, except for the lawyers.
The day will soon come when no one will remember how to exist outside the Internet, for there will be no "outside".
How will it end? I don't know. I look forward to a global outage of servers one day. Bored and confused, we will bludgeon each other to death with our selfie sticks. We will beat the tar out of the hipsters, kick the crap out of the Basics, hunt Twilight fans into extinction, kill the jocks, nerds, geeks, scenesters, old people - until all of mankind is obliterated. But it will be OK. If there is no photo of it on Instagram, it never happened. We never happened.
*I'm aware that I'm several years late to this scintillating term. I'm a grumpy codger who was also only made aware of One Direction's existence last month, and now wish I could repurpose that part of my brain for retaining my grocery list.
- This piece originally appeared on Miss Ann Thrope, a blog on The Business Times website. For more, visit btd.sg/missannthrope