We Needed Another Word for Disappointment
So the world sent us Patrick Stewart and the internet.
Defining a “Facepalm”
Commonly known to mean a gesture of disappointment,“facepalm” has a quite literal definition (putting one’s face in one’s hand to show disapproval/disbelief.) The first appearance of “facepalm” online was reportedly in 1996, but it wasn’t until a 2007 YouTube video was published that the slang saw a popularity spike.
From the Youtube video many people began to create memes, often referring to a still image from the Star Trek scene simply as a “facepalm.”
Technology’s Effect on Social Shaming
Regardless of the so deemed disappointing subject matter, the expression of disapproval has long been an essential component of social interactions. In Daniel Trottier’s “Coming to Terms with Shame: Exploring Mediated Visibility against Transgressions”, he discusses the role that digital media play in social gatekeeping, “notably as they broaden the scope of actors who are able to disclose transgressions, as well as to determine who and what behaviours are susceptible to shaming” (177).
As the pool of possible “surveillants” (as referred to in Trottier’s article) expands drastically online, the process of social judgement becomes more commonplace. The inclusion of “facepalm” in the digital vernacular represents a shift towards a more open discussion of shaming and of that which earns our disappointment.