[12]. The Internet has given us access to every weird thing in the world while simultaneously taking away the last vestiges of the “exotic.” You can see pictures of a manatee smoking a cigarette, but you can’t say “far Timbuktu” when you have a Flickr photoset about Timbuktu saved on Pinterest.

[13]. Most of us will, of course, still never get close to the real Timbuktu in our lives.

[14]. One consequence of this is the tone of burned-out overstimulation that, for no particular reason, I’ve taken to calling “whaff.” Whaff, in its simplest form, is semi-sarcastic exaggerated praise for the bizarre, the cute, or the stupid. If you’re on Twitter, chances are you’ve encountered whaff within the last 10 seconds. “OMG THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVAR,” followed by a link to an animated GIF of a baby owl falling into a hot tub, is the elemental template of whaff.

[15]. Whaff is never, however, entirely sarcastic. The attitude it projects is somehow both despairing and celebratory, without really occupying any of the middle ground between those two extremes. Whaff is nihilistic (because the world is so arbitrary and nonsensical) but also full of wonder (because the world is so huge and surprising and strange). At the same time, whaff is always both self-mocking (since you’re admitting that you actually like reading fanfic about Stan Van Gundy’s sweater collection) and self-congratulatory (since you’re smart and interesting enough to have undertaken the online odyssey that led you through the emotional arctic of the various fuckyeah Tumblrs to Stan Van Gundy fanfic in the first place).

[16]. Whaff is the tone of explorers who have been given more maps than they could ever use and who never have to leave their own rooms.

Brian Phillips

This is an extremely generative and useful set of ideas.