On the Internet in 2015 it's tacitly understood that we can trace most memes back to black people, that every couple of minutes a black kid somewhere is probably coming up with a new viral dance, a hilarious slang term or a Vine trend that'll be endlessly riffed on and ripped off by white people. But what if a popular meme can't be traced back to anyone? What if a meme is so basic in its elements it might as well be a mystery?
Enter the meme simply known as "it me." On Twitter, "it me" often accompanies a selfie, a quoted headline or images from the web. Usually used as a punchline to a joke, the set-up to "it me" jokes are consistent: a mortifying, self-deprecating, factual or quirky image or statement. Or sometimes, though this is rare, a pun.
A Child Called "It Me"-- Safy-Hallan Farah (@SafyHallanFarah) June 16, 2015
The lack of verb in "it me" might make it African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) by default, but psychically it feels more random than that. The words "it" and "me" are so common you can't search to see who uses it most, or who used it first. A cursory glance at various #itme tags shows that while there's no proof suggesting a racial breakdown, there is a clear demarcation across gender lines, with more women than men participating in the production of the meme.
There is an argument to be made that "it me" is a resurgence of the meme "Me IRL," as both memes do virtually the same thing. But I haven't seen "Me IRL" used that much-- maybe because it's outmoded or because it occupied online spaces I don't frequent. But "it me" found me. I didn't have to Google it because I couldn't Google it.
The first time I read the phrase was on Twitter, roughly six months ago. The first time I used it myself was April 22nd. Buzzfeed writer Hannah Giorgis tweeted a funny photo of a dog in a sleeping bag. I was cozied up in bed at 3:43 PM because sometimes I don't get out of bed, so I could relate to the comfortable-looking dog. I made the funny photo about myself, but it was permissible; it was me.
it me®-- spooky thirst mensch (@bijanstephen) October 1, 2015
A week later, a very cool woman I follow, Folu, tweets "it me" in response to some tweets I made about Imposter Syndrome. Apparently, she could relate; 'twas her.
@SafyHallanFarah it me-- folu (@notfolu) April 29, 2015
The second time I said "it me" was also on Twitter. I used it me to relay a psychological analysis I got from my friend Lauren. She told me, "You're very oriented toward figuring out who your friends and enemies are and being very loyal and supportive toward your friends." I shared her read of me on Twitter, and underneath it I declared "it me."
The "it me" meme enjoyed a nice run in the spring, but I barely saw it tweeted over the summer. I saw it posted less and less, while people couldn't get enough of talking about squads and describing situations as "lit." I guess this is partly due to the fact that "it me" is about the self, which means there is a limitation to how many times we can say it without being boring.
And even though I've observed "it me" used less recently, it's still popular among some people on Twitter. On Facebook, where I've barely observed it used, I've noticed it's mostly used by people who already have Twitter presences, like my friend Zack Schuster.
My friend Sarah Hagi thinks "it me" is often used as a deflective tool, "For example, people don't really believe mercury's in retrograde, it's just another way to pin how you feel on something else." In that sense, "it me" functions as ironic humor. There's a deflective quality to ironic humor. It masks the truth, though not the whole truth, revealing only a sliver of reality.
The whole reason I took up making jokes on Twitter was to curb my tendency to talk about my own personal business. Now, if I feel some type of way, instead of subtweeting or over-sharing my life, I deflect. For instance, I recently tweeted"I'm not even looking for a man. I just want an emergency contact." I could have just as easily tweeted "I'm really lonely and long for true love," but I didn't. There's some truth to my tweet, though not the whole truth. That is what "it me" does, though in way less words. Sometimes not only in less words, but in other people's words -- and images-- creating distance and making us seem smaller.
That distance and smallness is ironic detachment, sure, but there are still actual displays of vulnerability. In fact, the "it me" tag on Tumblr exists as a sort of museum of vulnerabilities, rife with young women's selfies and textual sighs into the internet abyss. The selfie poses vary, but a lot of the times these women are staring directly into a webcam or rap-squatting in front of their full-length bedroom mirrors, coyly covering their faces with a few fingers. And sometimes they're in public restrooms with a full leg in a sink.
On Instagram, unlike on Tumblr, there is rarely a joke to be made or an anecdote about one's day to share. It's a purely selfie-driven tag filled with the most relatable content: blank faces, tired eyes, listless feminine energy. While squad signifies group identity, "it me" signifies the simple fact of oneself. Squad may forever be associated with "it" girls like Taylor Swift but "it me" has found more relatable fare: women on the Internet taking selfies and making jokes. I guess you could call them "it-me" girls. Then again, that would only defeat the spirit of the meme.