In the last two months, we have seen the impact of America narrowly missing a fall off the fiscal cliff in January of 2013, and just managing to avoid the Mayan doomsday on December 21, 2012. In the wake of those two manufactured calamities, reporters, copywriters and conspiracy theorists have been searching for the Next Big Thing which is about to kill us all. Following the contemporary best practice of performing basic research by skimming the contents of the Twitterverse, they uncovered an eight-year trend of internet activity. After ads for generic [email protected] and for finding “singles near you”, the third-largest email category was pictures of cats with snippets of dialogue. These pictures fall into the general category of LOLCATs.
For those of you fortunate enough to have not been introduced to the LOLCAT phenomenon, we will provide an example. Imagine a picture of a cat wearing a silly hat, while seated at a piano and looking wistfully at a fish tank. Then imagine a caption that reads as if the cat is saying, “That’s funny doc. I couldn’t play the violin before.” Although this particular example breaks with tradition by containing no egregious spelling or grammar errors, it is otherwise consistent with the established form. Our publishing standards (yes, we have some) prevent us from stooping so low as to actually include a LOLCAT picture.
SIDE EFFECT #1 – Drop in Office Productivity
While reviewing the LOLCAT data, a serendipitous event caused one research team to overlay the LOLCAT volume with a graph of US Office Worker Productivity. The results were as startling as you would expect based on the combination of manufactured statistics and manipulated graphics. The chart (shown below) makes it clear that the level of office productivity in this country (represented by the blue line) is directly proportional to the inverse of the number of cat pictures on the internet (represented by the red line). They were also able to identify two specific events which coincided with dramatic increases in cat pictures and immediate and substantial drops in productivity.
While today’s office complexes survived the terrors of Y2K, they were soon struck with the plague of too-cute cat pictures and the typically misspelled and grammatically-challenged anthropomorphic commentaries. In the last century, a documentation drone, secretarial serf, filing flunky or paperwork plebe (aka, office worker) had limited opportunities to escape from the tedium of their desk jobs. In the eyes of management, this was a good thing. The proverbial water cooler was the only place to interact with their peers and this time was limited by both bladder size and the watchful eye of their manager. The advent of LOLCATs meant that now every desktop became a drag on productivity rather than a boost. That was a bad thing.
SIDE EFFECT #2 – Growth in Crazy Cat Lady Population
There are several societal dynamics at work which along with the ubiquitous nature of the internet, serve to amplify the impact of a few pictures of cats. In the previous century, if someone chose to be a “crazy cat lady”, it required a substantial investment in time and a strong nose or perhaps even having the olfactory receptors neutralized. Although never large numerically, the Crazy Cat Lady phenomenon was seen in enough places that Amazon.com and others began selling an action figure and a psychological condition (“Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome” was documented.
The number of Crazy Cat Ladies had reached a state of equilibrium and maintained that level throughout the twentieth century. However, once our civilization reached the Internet Age, the barriers to entry as a Crazy Cat Lady were dramatically lowered. It no longer requires someone to own seven or more felines to be clinically diagnosed as a Insanus Cat Matrona. In fact, gender is no longer a requirement as there has been a parallel rise in the number of men suffering from Insanus Cat Maritus. To join the ranks of Crazy Cat People, one only need a computer, an internet connection, and the ability to laugh at the tenth, or ten-thousandth, rendition of “I can haz chezburger?”
The Perfect Side Effect Storm
Taken individually, these two LOLCAT side effects are serious. Add them together and you get something worthy of highlighting with a bold font – Crazy Cat Ladies Infect the Workplace. A single dowager aunt in Ohio can now infect many thousands of offices simply by sending emails from the AOL account her kids set up for her in 1995. One particular instance of a LOLCAT (the cat/piano/fish-tank example given above) was tracked back to the index case /patient zero in Des Moines, Iowa. The perpetrator was an eighty-six year old retired bank teller. At last count, the email containing the image was forwarded to 212,745,931 unique email addresses and “liked” on facebook over three-hundred thousand times. More to the point, it has cost American businesses over six million dollars in lost productivity and that figure continues to climb. Although “creating and distributing LOLCATs” is not currently listed in the criminal code, the perpetrator would have done less damage to the country had she simply embezzled a hundred thousand dollars every year of her career.
I am sure you can now understand why our publishing standards prevent us from including a LOLCAT image in this post. Our associates get distracted by the noise of the copier fan and we can not afford to let our productivity fall any lower than the current immeasurably low level.
Now that you are suitably scared by the inappropriate use of medical terminology like pandemic, go to this post to see how NQP Labs are proposing to deal with the issue of declining office productivity.
Footnotes: (because they would not have made this feature if they didn't want us to use them)
- It is that or it represents a closeup of the intersection of the Central Line and the Piccadilly Line on the London Underground Map [↩]
- Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome may be better known by its Latin title, Insanus Cat Matrona [↩]
Now don't you feel smarter after reading this footnote?