Photo credits here.
By Jaime Pang
An example of the “Be Like Bill” meme, found here
The meme, which appeared sometime online late last year, has had a sudden surge in popularity over the last few months, flooding people’s Facebook pages with repeated pleas for people to be more like the ever-so-perfect ‘Bill’.
“Why Bill?” One might ask. “What is this even about?”
Firstly, the typical ‘Be like Bill’ meme often consists of an image of a stick man beside several lines of text in the above format, with its aim being to call out annoying or irritating behaviours in internet users without directly targeting any person. As such, the meme is to be cited as a passive-aggressive way for internet users to express their thoughts about internet etiquette in a funny and humorous manner.
Bill is nice. Bill does not bluntly point out your flaws. However, we are sure that most, if not all readers, should get the message.
Ever since its sudden surge in popularity earlier this year, the ‘Be like Bill’ meme has been popping up all over the internet, with its Facebook page garnering more than 1,000,000 ‘likes’. This meme was originally created in late 2015 by a man named Eugeniu Croitoru, along with his colleague Debrabata Nath.
While the meme had originally been created as an innocent way to poke fun at social media users, it had unexpectedly become internationally famous overnight, with “Be like Bill” expanding to not only focus on online etiquette, but that of real life social etiquette as well, and to an extent even criticising the socio-political views of people. In fact, it had even spawned foreign variants of ‘Bob’ such as the Spanish ‘José’ and the Malaysian ‘Rashid’ to educate others in their own languages. It has even been used by the City of Boston to remind citizens about the usage of space savers (shelves) during snowstorms (below).
“Be like Sebastian” from the City of Boston’s Facebook page
Translation: This is Rashid. Rashid is Malay. Rashid is shopping in a Malay shop. Rashid doesn’t ask for a discount using the phrase “Malays help Malays.” Rashid isn’t stupid. Rashid is smart. Be like Rashid. A “Be like Rashid” meme criticising the apparent Malay bias in Malaysia from the “Be like Rashid” Facebook page, a Malaysian variant of the original “Be like Bill”. Image and translation taken from here, originally from the Be Like Rashid Facebook Page).
So what exactly is it about “Be like Bill” that makes it so appealing even when it is meant as a means of criticising people? How do people still accept this meme and find it funny even when the people being targeted know that they are indirectly being criticised? What makes “Be like Bill” work?
One possible reason could be that at its heart, “Be like Bill” is supposed to poke fun at people and to humor us. It is written in such a way that users of social media who come across it, even those who harbor whatever ‘bad habit’ it points out, can relate to it and have a good laugh over it. As such, on seeing this meme, most people’s thoughts should be that it is simply meant to make people laugh and should not be taken as seriously as a full-blown insult or criticism. Granted, people who make these memes do make them as a means of venting their frustration over things that annoy them, but we still should respect the creators of these images in terms of their thoughts and feelings, and take care not to wrongly accuse them of insulting or criticizing others.
So, as the meme evolves everyday, with Bill taking different stances, from sociopolitical points of views to that of criticising annoying habits, one should keep in mind that these memes are not meant to hurt or to insult, but should not be taken as seriously.
Even so, it can’t hurt to be just a little bit more considerate and think about others when doing stuff, and simply be like Bill.