PROVIDENCE, RI—According to a study released this week by Brown University's Department of Modern Culture and Media, it now takes only four minutes for a new cultural touchstone to transform from an amusing novelty into an intensely annoying thing people never want to see or hear again.
"The American populace experienced a genuine sense of enjoyment when initially exposed to phenomena as diverse as the Double Rainbow video, the actor Jon Heder, and the phrase 'Stay thirsty, my friends,'" lead researcher Irene Levinson said. "But what's remarkable is that these exact same things were rejected with an almost violent revulsion less than 240 seconds later."
"The results are the same for everything from TV news bloopers to professional ad campaigns, with only a handful of exceptions," Levinson added. "For example, it takes, on average, less than 90 seconds to go from feeling delight to active enmity for anything that involves talking infants."
According to researchers, the unprecedented exposure afforded by the Internet is responsible for the speed with which such phenomena shift from eliciting joyous chuckles to provoking blind, undiluted rage.
"The average web user receives a dozen links and reads 60 mentions of a new meme or sensation within the first 45 seconds of being online," said Salvador Calder, a media studies professor. "During this period of peak popularity, individuals seem to derive a great level of satisfaction from endlessly repeating an entity's signature component, be it a contrived Kazakh accent or the words 'epic fail.'"
"However," Calder continued, "at roughly the 91-second mark, when the phenomenon has been remixed, set to a dance beat, and Auto-Tuned, that original sense of pleasure begins its inevitable, precipitous decline."
Calder's data indicate that between the second and third minute, the phenomenon is typically signed to a movie, book, or record deal, the news of which tends to trigger a "harsh and immediate reassessment" among most individuals as to whether the thing was ever legitimately amusing in the first place.
"A wide-scale backlash is initiated shortly after four minutes," Calder said. "This is usually the point when one is no longer able to turn on a TV or engage in a normal conversation without hearing someone make a clumsy reference to the now painfully stale entity."
"It's precisely at this moment when the subject starts to experience an unshakable and overwhelming desire to punch anyone making further allusion to the phenomenon right in the face," Calder added.
The study confirmed that 98.7 percent of attempts to capitalize on the public's annoyance with the phenomenon through mockery and spoofs also backfired, serving only to compound and intensify people's fury instead.
Using data collected over the past four decades, the research team determined that it used to take considerably longer for a cultural phenomenon to evolve from an entertaining diversion into the most reviled thing on the planet. In a particularly telling example, the study showed how the phrase "Yo quiero Taco Bell" sustained itself as an acceptable interjection for four years during the pre-broadband era. They then compared this to a modern-day equivalent, "Release the Kraken," which last year was angrily snuffed after only two days due to the "excruciating levels of irritation" that it inflicted on the population.
Researchers predict the time lag between novelty and utter hatred is likely to narrow further as technological advancements continue to increase and expand social connectedness online.
"We project that by 2018, the gap between liking something new and wishing yourself dead rather than hearing it again will be down to 60 seconds," Levinson said. "And by 2023, enjoyment and abhorrence will occur simultaneously, the two emotions effectively canceling each other out and leaving one feeling nothing whatsoever."
"I can't fucking wait," he added.