Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Author: Sam Seliger
Photo courtesy of Ctrl+Alt+Del
Just over 10 years ago, on June 2, 2008, author of popular online comic series Ctrl+Alt+Del Tim Buckley published a four-panel comic titled “Loss” that differed from his normal gamer-oriented subject matter. In it, the main character runs into a hospital and learns his girlfriend had a miscarriage (see left).
The comic was initially mocked within the communities that Ctrl+Alt+Del was popular, as it departed from its usual topics that had brought the series success in the first place. Pages solely dedicated to hating on the comic were made on websites such as 4chan and Reddit. It became an inside joke of sorts. And, as happens when an internet community has an inside joke, it became a meme. People began to parody it, taking the format and replacing the characters so that they could communicate their own messages. As the joke grew and the culture of internet memes changed, “Loss” memes began to increase in popularity. The internet moved away from “rage comics” and top text/bottom text meme images in favor of more flexible formats and styles, and “Loss” became a go-to reference for meme-makers.
People began to warp the meme more and more. The purpose of making many memes is simply because one can, and “Loss” is no different. Variations gradually strayed further and further from the original until they became almost unrecognizable. Eventually, the internet settled on an uber-reduced version made of seven lines arranged in four panels as a fully simplified version of “Loss” to use in jokes and references (see right).
As this version made its way into the internet’s collective conscience, people began to find some inherent fun in referencing it. In the modern world of internet humor, where social media sites such as Reddit, Instagram and Twitter are the dominating sources of content, people often use a meme for such a long time that its humor is lost. But sometimes, this gives memes a newfound humor. In the same way that some people get joy out of cracking a clever pun, some also enjoy creating elaborate memes that subtly (or not so subtly) reference “Loss”.
People hide the simplified “Loss” in their posts, disguising it as other things. They connect it to a variety of other memes, such as “Man Door Hand Hook Car Door,” “it is Wednesday my dudes” and of course, Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.” People even see it hidden everywhere, online and in real life, from Google Maps, to Stonehenge, to the new logo for everybody’s favorite burger/pancake restaurant, IHOb.
It has been a decade since Tim Buckley’s initial comic, and “Loss” is more popular than ever. For some reason, people reference this simple comic that was created before many of them were even online. There may not be some deep insight to gain from the internet’s obsession with this meme. However, if there is something we can draw from this, it is that people will make a joke on the internet simply because they can, and once they do, they will never stop.
Source for history of Ctrl+Alt+Del: knowyourmeme.com/memes/loss