Culture

‘I’m Baby’ Is The Perfect Meme For 2019, Because I’m Baby

We trace back the birth of 'i'm baby'.

What is 'i'm baby'?

When asked to describe ‘i’m baby’, it’s tempting to just repeat it. “Hey, what does ‘I’m baby’ even mean?” “Well, I’m baby.”

You either intrinsically understand the power and meaning of ‘i’m baby’, or you’re completely lost, depending, well, whether you are baby or not.

Think of the world not as right and left, but ‘Rugrats’ and ‘parents of Rugrats‘– Tommy Pickles and his gang can understand their families, but remain undecipherable to them, speaking their own language, a goo-goo and ga-ga that the audience has, graciously, had translated.

In less obtuse metaphors, this means the internet feels more split on the rise and rise of ‘i’m baby’ as a meme/term than most slang: you can always just urban dictionary ‘yeet’ or ‘wig’, which is how Katy Perry, assumedly, came to understand them.

But you couldn’t include ‘i’m baby’ in a viral video of boomers trying to define ‘Gen Z’ slang: the explanation would be too long-winded. It’s easier to just say ‘i’m baby’, which is ‘i’m baby”s power — and part of the reason for its growing hatred online. Yes, non-babies are scolding baby.

“If you’re a 28 year old who has snorted ketamine in an art gallery bathroom, it seems that you are not, in fact, ‘baby’. a baby wouldn’t do that,” tweeted poet and writer Sebastian Castillo at the end of March, garnering 31+ thousand likes. Or, to put it more simply, Jacob Valentine tweeted, ” ‘i’m baby’ ur literally 26″.

Similar to how the concept of ‘adulting’ seems to celebrate 24-year-old fuccbois washing their sheets or getting a bed frame, ‘i’m baby’ seems to revel in absolution of power.

Didn’t clean your dishes? I’m baby.  Can’t follow the latest political scandal? I’m baby. Mis-pronounce a word? I’m baby.

But these tweets seem to push back and say, “Oh, you’re baby? Grow the fuck up”. How did we get here — from blow-up to blow-back?

Don’t ask me. I’m baby.

Wait, Where And When Was ‘I’m Baby’ Birthed?

People have been babies for a long time — arguably, since humans first began to exist, at least — but ‘i’m baby’ breathed its first breath a few years back, long before you probably first saw it.

And, surprise: it’s much darker than you’d think.

In March 2017, a 14-year-old girl from California was on ABC News, recounting a terrifying encounter with a home invader.

Savannah Jones was babysitting her 4-year-old niece, home alone, when she heard someone knock on the door — she hid in the bathroom, and the man entered the house. Unable to call the police, she texted her mum, who alerted the authorities and neighbours — and everything was fine, with the latter coming to the rescue.

The news story absolutely buries the lede, which is that the mum responded to Jones’ first message with two words: “i’m baby”.

i'm baby

Image: ABC7 News.

Then there’s the additional “k” later on. This, in short, is a mother who in her frantic texting somehow manages to sound like the most un-compassionate, incompetent person in the world.

And that, a few months later, caught on over on Tumblr, according to KnowYourMeme.

“What does this mean”, writes one user — and off it went, slowly taking over Twitter and Instagram in time.

https://darknetexclusivetouhouterrorcore.tumblr.com/post/161486035070/what-does-this-mean

The text message is funnier the more you look at it. Imagine, this baby sitter receiving this reply, literally crouched in the bathroom with a 4-year-old, terrified of the stranger on the other side of the door. She texts her mum, the last hope she has.

The reply is ‘i’m baby’. It is a koan by accident: it’s clear the mother fails to type correctly in her haste.

Assumedly, she’s responding to Jones’ earlier text to say ‘come home mom’, and so she’s writing ‘i am [coming home] baby’, her phone auto-contracting ‘i am’ to ‘i’m’. In her mistake, she becomes baby.

But she’s not the titular baby. ‘I’m baby’ now refers to its speaker, having long lost its specific context and becoming a state of mind.

That’s almost single handedly thanks to Twitter user @Moeshayan, who in February posting a picture of perpetual glutton Kirby pointing to a white board which says ‘im baby’. With 50,000+ retweets, it soon spawned more memes, and meta-memes.

Google Trends show ‘i’m baby’ has been on a sharp rise this year, seemingly because people are seeing the second-layer jokes without knowing its original source.

 

I’m Baby Feels So Good, Because I’m Baby

What contexts do people use ‘i’m baby’ in?

Well, a quick look at regular ‘i’m baby’ Jared Richards’ Twitter account (I did tell you i’m baby) teaches us that ‘i’m baby’ is an appropriate response to all matter of things.

Babies have no framework to worry about our worries: they simply exist outside of constraints of rent, bills, relationship struggles, debt, living ethically.

Plus, you won’t face the humiliation of struggling to say anything astute about The Budget at the dinner party, but you’ll also avoid the humiliation of sitting with the kids, knees knocking against the small table.

When we’re faced with tribulations and traumas, being baby feels freeing. Just ask Meryl Streep in Adaptation, who cries, “I want to be a baby again” as her life falls apart.

Babies are congratulated on just being — to be baby is to be as free as we can be. Who wouldn’t want to be baby?

Or maybe it’s not that deep.

One shitpost describes  ‘i’m baby’ as a “radical response”, “rejection of capitalist productivity standards” and “a joyful reclamation of tenderness”. It’s more of a stretch than a first year uni student’s Marxist reading of Younger.

But it is a shitpost, where irony and sincerity are indistinguishable.

‘I’m baby’ is the absurd sort of language the internet’s traded in for the past decade, arguably at its peak with @horse_ebooks. It’s why Rupi Kaur’s incredibly successful ‘Insta-poetry’ splits audiences between finding it devastating or utterly laughable — its flowery sincerity is born of the internet, and lands as both poetry and a meme ready to be meta-memed.

So too with ‘I’m baby’, which is comfortingly dumb, but also captures a sense of in-agency much of millennials/gen z feel daily.

The causes are many, and as multiplicitous as there are babies. It could be due to world affairs, climate change, social stature or just the same old imposter syndrome that too made our ancestors feel like baby, if only they had the words to express it.

Sometimes, we are all baby. But remember one thing: i’m baby.


Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.