Why has the idea of ‘fail’ risen to prominence in the murky soup of web culture? It obviously originated with the idea of applying the term ‘FAIL’ (and, later, ‘EPIC FAIL’ to photos of screw-ups, accidents and douchebaggery. In one sense, it’s just a more distilled version of America’s Funniest Home Videos, except ruder and more sardonic.
I wonder where that practice began? Usually these memes start in an obscure online discussion group, but my 76 seconds of research couldn’t turn up anything definitive. This sounds like a job for Anil or Andy, master investigators of internet memes.
The ‘fail’ meme feels like a distant cousin of LOLcats, as well as demotivational posters. Oddly (or not), there hasn’t been a similar plague of images tagged with ‘SUCCESS’ or ‘WIN’.
In any case, it’s spawned a number of blogs, including FAIL blog, Shipment of Fail and Fail Dogs (there are also, I’m sure, Fail Octopi, Fail Emu, and so forth). The infamous Twitter-is-b0rked image is known as the Fail Whale. And now, at long last, there’s Fail Camp in Philadelphia. From the camp’s Upcoming page:
This isn’t about finger pointing. It’s about having a safe place to admit YOUR mess – ups, small and large and most importantly, what you learned.
We all make mistakes. The best of us learn from them. The best of the best help others learn from their mistakes.
These can be business failures. These can be life failures. We want your fail.
To paraphrase good ol’ Santayana, those who fail to study failures are destined to repeat them. Or, as George Bernard Shaw once said, “my reputation grows with every failure”.