Nobody realized it at the time, but those posters were an important precursor to one of the most loved – and most hated – phenomena on the internet: the inspirational quote.
The chance that some quote appearing on Facebook between a silly cat video and some vacation photos will somehow change the trajectory of my life/day/hour is slim. Posting these quotes also smacks of self-importance, like you have something deep to offer your Facebook or Instagram community while your superficial friends are wasting their lives posting poolside hotdog legs.
Getting just 10 minutes of exercise a day can raise your risk of posting inspirational quotes by 40%.
— Trevor S (@trevso_electric) April 24, 2015
Some of my close friends post inspirational quotes and I know it’s coming from pure, simple intentions: I like this and someone else might like it too. I get that. There are also some quotes out there that are undeniably good.
There have been many people throughout history and some who are alive today who truly are inspirational; Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, and Anne Frank to name a few. But randomly quoting them out of context is usually meaningless, often because the quote is so famous that it comes across as cliché rather than making you think about the meaning behind it. Plus, most famous people are exceptional in one way or another. Most people can’t hope to replicate their success.
My other favourite category of quotes are the ones that sound deep and inspiring but they don’t actually mean anything. It has just enough substance to make people hit the share button, but even with a solid appreciation for metaphor, who can actually explain what it means?
Then there are brands. Perhaps most people can be forgiven for posting inspirational quotes. They’re not in the marketing industry and they post things according to their whims and without thought to their long-term personal brands. But brands – and their agencies – that spend untold time and money crafting their online and offline personae and that’s what they come up with? They’re just hoping nobody thinks about this for more than an instant.
Of course there’s the problem of the quote in question sounding generically inspiring with no actual practical implications. But when it comes to a brand, you’re selling a product. In 99.9% of cases it’s a product that people can easily live without. So when you’re telling people to meditate on the meaning of life, look deep inside their souls and examine their true purpose, you probably don’t intend for them to come to the conclusion that they could do yoga just as well without $100 pants.
There are great quotes out there – from songs, books, and notable speeches. But Kim Kardashian’s cleavage in her latest selfie is actually deeper than the vast majority of quotes people post online.
Gabriella is the Creative Director at 88 Creative. Follow her on Twitter @gabriellainga.