I’ll be honest: Sometimes, memes can seem impossibly opaque. Their origins are obscure; their spread is inexplicable; and their meaning is not always clear. But that’s not the case with the “It’s Okay To Be…” meme currently sweeping Twitter; indeed, this one asks one very important question: If it’s okay — nay, if it’s encouraged to be you (because seriously, that’s an awesome thing to be) — then what is it not okay to be?
Folks have some, uh, thoughts. And honestly, they’re pretty funny.
It’s worth noting that the origins of the meme are… not great, despite how innocent it looks on the surface. (Basically, we’re looking at a milkshake duck situation.) According to meme database and tracker KnowYour Meme, “It’s Okay To Be…” — which is a snowclone, or “a type of phrase that has a standard pattern in which some of the words can be freely replaced,” according to Macmillan Dictionary — began around the same time that 4chan’s terrible “It’s Okay To Be White” campaign kicked up. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it this particular meme a reaction to “It’s Okay To Be White,” but it did sort of evolve out of it — although thankfully, it evolved in ways meant to make people laugh, rather than to spew hateful rhetoric. The healing power of comedy and all.
And, indeed, the many variations on this particular snowclone emerging from the depths of the internet are certainly worth a chuckle or two. They tend to speak to a wide range of human experiences: Sharply divided opinions on food, deep thoughts on age-old debates, universal truths, and more. A recent Twitter Moment has pulled together some of the most notable examples, but there are plenty more where they came from; here is just a small selection of what it’s apparently not okay to be or do, according to the internet: