Nonsensical, creepy, wholesome, or illustrative of our current generation’s state of mind – are we all ‘baby’?
Every once in a while, there’s a meme that truly unites us all despite our many, many divisions. It’s usually one that’s widely relatable, that we can use to express ourselves without actually having to disclose how we feel. The “I’m Baby” meme, usually featuring the little pink character Kirby pointing at a whiteboard that reads “I’m baby”, has proven to be just that. Though this mysterious meme without an origin story has been dismissed as yet more nonsensical shitposting, one thing is for sure: it does, indeed, unite the internet.
As the wide range of ‘I’m Baby’ memes suggest, deep down, we’re just dumb-dumb babies, flailing. Or, if we aren’t truly as hopeless as we want to believe, we would like to be: simply because being treated like a baby rules. Babies have no jobs, no taxes, no responsibilities. They are cuddled, and spoon-fed, and get to watch TV all day. They don’t even have to get dressed! They get endless, unconditional love and attention at no cost! Sounds pretty good, given that our generation is both extremely online, extremely depressed, and extremely priced out of all the things boomers and Gen X enjoyed before us like stable income, cultural mobility, and housing.
So yes: we are all baby. Some have argued that the meme is entirely meaningless, that the internet just loves to share absurd jokes, but they are wrong. If you look back to 2015 – a millennia or so in internet years – to when ‘smol bean’ first emerged in online slang, you’ll get the vibe. So what does it mean to truly be Baby?
Idk if I want babies because when it comes to me and my man, I’M baby and I can’t have anyone threatening my title.— Nicolette Melody (@Nicolettemelody) March 25, 2019
A BABY (MEME) IS (RE)BORN
The “I’m Baby” meme actually started in 2017, kind of, when a teenager posted a screenshot of a conversation with her mother wherein – upon hearing the news of a home invasion – her mother allegedly replied “I'm baby. Call 911”. It quickly went viral on Tumblr, but died down shortly after – until recently, when a potentially unrelated tweet was posted on February 22.
Twitter user @Moeshayan posted “Me explaining to my boyfriend why he can’t scold me” with the image of Kirby pointing at a whiteboard reading “I’m baby”. It took off, with over 50,000 retweets and many different iterations over the weeks to come. It’s now, naturally, filtered into daily lexicon for everyone who can’t log off. Some people have pointed out that it works as a nice partner to ‘daddy’ memes, which too will never die.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT FOR BABY
From @Moeshayan’s tweet, naturally, everyone had their own spin on it. Twitter user @th0tcouture, for one, really ran with it. The next narrative arc saw the fandoms jump on it, ascribing “I’m baby” to whichever member of their favourite bands is the most baby – especially K-pop stans. It’s also been interpolating into other more longstanding memery – the ‘my mom when she was pregnant with me’ format, and the ‘give x a sword’ structure. “I’m baby” is a great meme for pretty much anyone, because it requires very little thinking beyond adding “I’m baby” as a response to anything.
my mom when she was pregnant:— cracchead (@thiccasparagus) March 25, 2019
| I’m |
| baby /
give “i’m baby” baby a sword— jonny sun (@jonnysun) March 26, 2019
WHEN IS IT APPROPRIATE TO USE ‘I’M BABY’?
Oh, that’s the best thing about it. All the time. Anytime you want to dodge anything. “Why didn’t you do your work on this presentation?” “I’m baby!”, “why didn’t you clean the house?” “I’m baby”, “are you going to be the one to pull the plug?” “I’m! Baby!”. Not only that, but any time you feel like you need some extra taking care of. “Could you cook dinner for me tonight? I’m baby”, “run me a bath, I’m baby”. A lot of memes run out of steam pretty fast, but with one this genuinely relatable to our widespread cultural feeling of helplessness and despair, it’s no wonder it’s been kicking around for so long.
me aged 12: in ten years time I'm going to be an *adult*, with so much money and so many responsibilities. my life will be in order and i'll be happy— Katherine Bayford 🍐 (@kebayf) February 27, 2019
me now: i'm baby
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BABY? WHO IS BABY? AM I BABY?
Now, the fact that we are all so keen to retweet the meme and to say “I’m baby” both online and IRL illuminates that we do, in fact, believe we are all baby. To be baby is to be incapable of being able to do anything or to be told off for the things you do: you are Kirby, tiny but fierce. Smol bean-adjacent. You need taking care of and wrapping up in this mean, horrible world. You are vulnerable, exposed, with the helplessness of a really bad hangover. You can do things for yourself, but… why bother? The most famous baby of all is Lana Del Rey, and she is doing just fine. But for some of us to be babies, some people have to… not be babies. Some people are submissive (babies, smol beans), and some people are dominant (not babies). Some people are babies, and others are daddies.
SO IT’S JUST A KINK THING?
Yeah, kinda. Why not.
I’m baby (no object permanence, incapable of sustaining belief that I’m loved unless someone is physically in front of me reminding me at regular intervals)— rose 🦇 (@roselyddon) March 18, 2019