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Has the internet broken our brains? A haunting painting turned viral meme has people worried.

People holding phones
Are our lives just memes now?photoschmidt
  • A TikToker went mega-viral after spotting the physical artwork behind a viral meme.

  • The upload sparked a discussion about the blurred lines between reality and online references.

  • Some say they've started to view the physical world through the lens of internet terms.

A social media user who came face-to-face with the artwork behind a famous meme sparked a discussion about "internet brain rot," and how people are beginning to view reality through an online lens.

On January 15, a TikToker who goes by @joshlunchbox posted a video that showed him sitting in what appeared to be a library. An on-screen caption said he had looked up from studying and thought he'd "finally developed internet brain rot" as he panned the camera to show a 1948 book by Norman Mailer called "The Naked and the Dead."

The cover of the edition featured an illustration known as "The 2000 Yard Stare" created by artist and war correspondent Thomas Lea in 1944. It depicts an American soldier who has witnessed the horrors of war.

The image has since become associated with an online meme dubbed "1,000 Yard Stare," often used as a light-hearted response by users who have seen a social media post they want to depict feeling traumatized by, or regretting having looking at.

The TikToker alluded to its online popularity, and his surprise at seeing the image in real life, in a caption alongside the video which read, "GO BACK TO THE DIGIT REALM YOURE NOT MEANT TO BE HERE."

The upload quickly racked up 4.8 million views and over 2,500 comments, some of which wrote they had no idea the meme was based on a real image, and would have been terrified if they had seen it outside of their screens. Others seemed suspicious, and questioned if the book was actually real. (Versions of the book with this cover are listed online.)

Further commenters shared similar experiences, where their minds had interpreted real-world items or events from an online perspective.

One user wrote they were watching a movie with subtitles on when the phrase "acoustic music" came up, and felt they had "officially lost it," as they suggested they had understood the word in its online meaning — a slang term for "autistic." Others agreed they could no longer see the word "acoustic" without reading it in the same way.

A further user recalled they they had seen a horse and their immediate response was to think of a TikTok sound associated with the animal, while another said they were unable to explain the Greek myth of Sisyphus to someone without referring to the meme it inspired.

It seems this is being interpreted as "internet brain rot" which people think is a byproduct of being "chronically online."

As many commenters suggested, it may be time to log off for a while.

Read the original article on Business Insider