2011 was the year "bro" woke up under the Ping-Pong table, stumbled into the kitchen, threw up in the sink, grabbed a breakfast brew, slipped on some 'flops and shuffled bleary-eyed to the front porch only to discover that it had been crowned king sometime in its drunken stupor, and now all the peasants were waiting on the lawn to swear their fealty.
It's not just a term for people who take Beer Pong seriously anymore.
Somehow "bro" went from a chief identifier of frat boys to netspeak, and it did so almost instantly. One day you could play Date Rapist Marco Polo at any party and shout, "What's up, bro?" into a crowd, knowing that anybody who answered back could legally be detained for semen samples. And the next day Reddit powerusers have more "bros" in their submission history than Pi Kappa Gamma's in-house dominatrix.
I'm not sure exactly why this sudden adoption took place (though I suspect it's meme-related). But regardless of why, 2011 has been all about this kind of bullshit: co-opting things that should be shunned, idolizing people who should be institutionalized and proudly saying things that should get your mouth scrubbed out with old bong Jaeger.
We lived this year in the wake of other years. Big stories with decade-long arcs came to a close. Things we'd been wondering about for decades finally shook out in the wash. The chickens came home to roost because the economy was tanking and they couldn't find a job to support themselves.
Steve Jobs, the guy who spent the last decade creating the next big thing, died of a terminal illness he'd been battling for years, but his death felt sudden. The technology blogs and consumers who had come to expect him to change their lives every couple years were forced to pull focus on how recently we were walking around with Discmans.
No man in history has had more of an impact on the way we masturbate.
The generation that grew up never knowing a world without iPods had a big year, as they were forced to face the end of Harry Potter and the third-act climax of the 9/11 story that had defined their generation more than most of us had realized. The wake they threw for bin Laden on the night he was assassinated was one of the more surprising events of the year. It was the first time those of us who were adults in 2001 realized how weird it would have been to have September 11 be a seminal experience.
With most people learning of his death on Twitter, every one of us was asked to participate in the story -- write our own eulogies. Some of us even succeeded.
Others not so much.
The speed with which we began creating conspiracy theories in the wake of the bin Laden announcement was remarkable. This was the year that the wake of old news stories was still echoing through our culture, while the wake created by new stories was disintegrating faster than ever.
This year, the purest of heart were scheduled to ascend into heaven, and everyone else was supposed to be consumed in eternal fire. Twice. Christian radio host and holy number cruncher Harold Camping had solved God's greatest math problem by figuring out the date of the Rapture. God, Camping said, had tentatively penciled in humanity's reckoning for May 21 of 2011, and in case the date didn't work for everyone, then October 21 for sure. Both those dates came and went without any hint of an apocalypse, which was understandably embarrassing for Camping and his followers.
"I don't understand why no one's here. I even made tiny cakes."
What was most remarkable about the Rapture hype was not that Camping was wrong, it was the worldwide attention he received in the first place for predicting something so inherently ridiculous.
Leading up to May 21, the second leading search in Google was "end of the world may 21st." Hundreds of people quit their jobs and took to the streets preaching the word of the Lord before it was too late, and even internationally people gathered by the thousands to wait for Christ's arrival, and perhaps, if they were lucky, get an autograph.
His stuff was good, but his need to appeal to a wider audience really destroyed his career.
The word "rapture" became part of the everyday lexicon, even if it was almost exclusively used as a punch line. Still, everyone -- whether they believed it or not -- was keenly aware of the prediction of one Christian radio host, because each time we discussed it on the Internet, we inadvertently spread awareness. If the 2011 revolution in Egypt was a testament to the possibilities of social media to share information and mobilize people behind a cause, "the Rapture" was proof of how that power could be squandered on the asinine. We clumsily tried to wield the same weapon of uncensored and instant worldwide communication just months after the revolution, except we had nothing to say, and so instead we talked about the crazy old man in Texas who was predicting the end of the world.
Sometime in the last 12 months, the Internet became the section outside of a college campus's dining hall full of sweaty people desperately trying to get you to sign a petition to save or arrest or eat the children.
Do you agree with the Occupy Wall Street movement? There's a petition for you to sign. What about the act put forward in Congress that would result in censoring the Internet? There's a petition for that, too. Whitehouse.gov has a petition to ban Skyrim. When it was announced that Nickelback was going to be playing the halftime show for the Lions/Packers Thanksgiving game, a petition was created demanding their replacement. Want to legalize weed? There are literally thousands of online petitions. What's that? NBC's decided to shelve Community?! Balderdash, sign a petition! The White House is now asking for petitions from everyone, about everything, so of course there's a petition petitioning that the government take petitions seriously.
What are we doing? (Other than, of course, cheapening the strength of a successful petition by proving that we will petition just absolutely every freaking thing.) I don't know what it is about 2011, but suddenly everyone decided that petitions were the only way to get your point across, and that everything warranted a petition. Seriously, when was the last time anyone has given any amount of shits over who plays the halftime show of a Detroit Lions game? I'd wager that the majority of the Internet couldn't tell you from memory who played the last five Thanksgiving halftime shows, but suddenly it was important for those same people all over the country to stop that goddamn Nickelback from playing this year!
We're no longer fighting for causes that we're passionate about, we're just saying "A thing happened? Let me round up thousands of people to support or condemn it!"