50 Times People Saw Something That Made Them Go ‘Hmmm’ And Just Had To Share It Online (New Pics)
Weird is good. At least that's what we like to tell ourselves when we occasionally end up in the bizarre-o world that is the r/hmmm subreddit. Dedicated to raising our eyebrows and making us feel like we've stumbled upon the internet's Twilight Zone, this is a place where random photos with no context get to shine and win the day.
Celebrating "Internet as an art," we've collected the very best and the most nonsensical pics that we think you'll get a kick out of. Just be aware that the further you go into this list - the weirder it gets. And if you ask us: the more fun it gets. Just don't try to make sense of things. Trust us on this one.
Ranging from puppies being bewildered by a hall of mirrors to people sporting sci-fi-looking backpacks on a daily subway commute, r/hmmm is a treasure trove of hilariously absurd imagery. One that champions the hard-to-grasp ridiculousness that is internet humor, over logic and reason. As Haruki Murakami, the bestselling Japanese author famous for his often ambiguous writing style, once said: “Some things in life are simply too complicated to explain in any language.” To which we add: some things, just like the photos you see on this list, don’t need an explanation.
This might explain why almost 2 million internet users are fascinated by this content that could easily be labeled as ‘reality glitching out.’ Remember that scene from the original Matrix where Keanu Reeves sees a black cat walk by, followed by another one that behaves exactly the same way? Well, the following images might not bring a sense of déjà vu. But they will definitely serve as a reminder that our daily lives can be full of ludicrous surprises.
It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly makes these images so special, bringing us back for more every week or so. Is it the (David) Lynchian absurdity? Or perhaps the element of surprise? According to the subreddit’s guidelines, “as long as they give you a good solid hmmm…”, it’s a good fit. Bear sitting in a cubicle? Wait…
Another important rule of thumb for getting that solid “hmmm” out of people: the pictures “should be aesthetic and meaningful.” Not too meaningful, of course - you don’t want them to cross into the r/mildlyinteresting territory. Just like trusting your gut with spices when cooking, the same goes for capturing a “hmmm-worthy” contender. Plus, nobody will call you “an idiot sandwich” for mistaking a “hmmm” for the half-hearted “ahhh” the “mildly interesting” content is beloved for.
Another reason we believe people are drawn to the aesthetic absurdity that’s r/hmmm is the never-ending compulsion to look for meaning that simply isn’t there. We’re only but humans after all. And while reality makes progressively less and less sense as the years go by, with technological advances bringing us closer to surreal metaverses, people turn to equally ridiculous entertainment. As this writer for The Guardian once wrote: “One explanation for all this un-realism is that it’s a response to a world that has stopped making sense.” If only we could put it any better.
One way to understand the peculiar nature of out-of-context humor is to look at it through the perspective of memes - the internet’s beloved form of communal language. Although not every picture on the r/hmmm subreddit is a good fit for a meme, after every couple is one that’s the ideal canvas to become one. Just take a look at this genius Lara Croft cosplay. Or this person copying a crooked street sign down to a T.
“As internet culture has changed over the past few years, memes have become way less focused around wider stereotypes and identities and more nuanced and layered, often requiring a deeper level of understanding to get the joke,” Amanda Brennan, a trends expert at Tumblr, once explained for Forbes. And while there’s no right or wrong approach when it comes to “hmmm-generating” content, you can easily tell just by looking at this list that some images were instant hits compared to their counterparts.
In 2017, the Washington Post asked its readers “Why is millennial humor so weird?” It tried to find some much-needed answers by dissecting pop culture’s touchstones, such as Rick and Morty or BoJack Horseman. Part of the answer, it turns out, lies in classical staples of meaning - religion and family formation, for example - becoming less and less relevant as the generations go by. Does this help to understand why many of us find someone knitting a scarf out of ramen noodles “hmmm-worthy”? We doubt it. But at least we’re getting there.
To better understand the appeal of these subreddits, Bored Panda reached out to Adam Downer, the editor of 'Know Your Meme', the Encyclopedia Britannica of Memes. Having been part of the editorial team at 'Know Your Meme' for the better half of a decade, which to this day indexed some 34,710 meme entries with more being added every day, you could say Downer is an expert on this internet phenomenon.
"I remember my early days looking at humor sites like 'Funnyjunk' and 'eBaum's', and just laughing at the barrage of surreal images and videos," Adam tells us when we ask him about his experience with out-of-context internet content. "The crescendo of all that content together, now hosted on absurd humor subreddits [like r/hmmm], can make each image more than the sum of its parts."
Just like with memes, or peculiar images that have the potential to become great memes, sometimes it's hard to put a finger on what exactly makes it work. Even for Adam, who spends most of his days documenting their origins and meaning as part of the nature of his editorial duties.
"A recent meme that struck me as particularly bizarre is the so-called "sludge content" on TikTok," he says, referencing particularly random, yet currently popular videos that use split screens to pair users' clips with unrelated footage. Think 'Subway Surfers' and 'Family Guy' clips happening side-by-side. "I'm not 100% confident on why it's a meme, but I think it's popular as a way to poke fun at the idea that Gen Z has a high percentage of ADHD," Downer explains.
"I think things on r/hmmm or r/mildlyinteresting are funny because the world we live in is filled with SO many creative people doing and making weird interesting things," Jamie Cohen, a digital media culture expert who studies memes academically, told us. Having the honor of being the co-author of the first peer-reviewed paper on Pepe the Frog, one of the most prolific images on the net, Cohen has made studying internet literacy his life's work.
Internet humor, as we know it, is an always-changing 'microorganism' that can be many different things the next day you visit it (remember what happened with Pepe the Frog?). "We tend to forget that nearly everything is already somewhat absurd, but in context, we tend to not see it. Memes are decadent tiny bits of culture that help us make sense of the world around us in creative ways," Cohen said.
Although the r/hmmm content you see on this list is rough diamonds waiting to be made into memes, they share the same DNA, thus making it one of the most easily shared forms of humor. "The best way for a meme to work is to have it be applicable to a wide array of situations, and needs to be able to transcend its original context," Downer told. "Oftentimes you'll see people clamoring over a "new meme" that is really just jokes about one pop culture reference."
He cites sports memes as a particularly interesting example, because of their expiration date. Take 'Crying Jordan', for example. Not only it transcended Jordan and sports itself, but it became one of the most widely used memes to this day. Which isn't the case for most sport-related ideas. "Are they a 'working meme?' Oftentimes no, because it's gone from the timeline by the time the next game happens."