Stick ’em up!
Image credit: Zapiro
There we were, in a taxi in the city of Arequipa in Peru, stuck in a traffic jam. As we navigated our way through the chaotic stream of cars and bikes, an old Peugeot hatch crawled along ahead of the taxi. In the rear window was a set of “my family” stick figures, depicting the dad, mom, two kids and a dog.
Yep, they’re even in Peru.
My philosophy about life is simple: live and let live. That’s why I don’t point and laugh hysterically when I see these stickers on cars in Gauteng.
Still, I just don’t get it. Why would someone want to publicly advertise on a moving billboard (the car) that the dad likes to fish, the mom goes to gym, there are three kids in the family who ride bikes – and there’s even a fish in a bowl at home. Huh?
Is it a fashion statement? Fads like the yo-yo, lava lamps and Rubik’s cube seemed to be the best thing like in ever, ever, if you’ll excuse the Taylor Swift-ism. Then, one day, you wake up and Nintendo is a Donkey Kong game.
is inexplicably the next best thing. Ever-ever.
This sticker craze apparently doesn’t fall in the same category. It seems to have originated in the US, where it’s been going for many years. And it’s all thanks to an Aussie who went there on a business trip that this fad has become so popular around the world.
According to the Australia Post, chiropractor Phil Barham visited California in 2004 and saw a stick- figure sticker of a family in the rear window of a car. Back home, Phil and his graphic designer wife, Monica, worked on a few designs.
By 2009 they had launched the My Family range, and today they produce about 200 000 stickers every month. The stickers are sold in more than 20 countries, including SA.
If there is a “cool” element to it, it’s that you buy each character individually, and then add them all together to create your “family”. So it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal.
But like me, not everyone “gets it”.
Some people hate it so much that they’ve created special Facebook groups such as “I hate My Family stickers” and “My Family Stickers suck” – and there are thousands of people who follow these pages.
Then there are those who kind of like the idea but who want something a bit more, shall we say, exclusive. At www.creepyuncle.com.au you can order a range of weird and wacko stick family “members”.
There’s a redneck, weird pets, horror film characters, the alcoholic mum, zombies, the knocked-up teen, and the “tripod”, to name but a few.
The My Family haters have come up with their own range of bumper stickers. You can order a sticker that reads, along with a suitable depiction: “My dog ate your stick family”. Another one shows a burning family of stick persons, with the question, “What happened to your stick family?”
Whether you love it or hate it, or simply don’t get the hype about it (like me), the fact is that millions of people like sticking these figures doing all kinds of stuff on their cars. So the obvious question is: why?
Thankfully my wife knows everything. So I asked her for the meaning of this madness.
“Two words,” she replied: “Social media”.
I’m obviously a collective ignoramus in the ways of the modern internet user.
She explained the role that social media plays in our lives. People like to share personal stuff on the Net. And in particular, they like to share it on Facebook.
Like that they bumped their small toe that morning, that the milk in the fridge tasted funny, and that cricketer AB de Villiers looked fabulous in pink. Weird, random stuff that matters little to anyone who has a real-world life.
Nowadays people meet husbands and wives through Facebook. Some get divorced because of Facebook. More than one billion people subscribe to it. That’s a lot of news about toes, milk and AB de Villiers.
And that’s not counting the impact of other massive electronic social networks such as Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace, and many more.
We are apparently slap-bang in the middle of an information sharing age. And the My Family sticker fad is simply a natural extension of this sharing of information phase between socially sharing people. Just in a more real- world kind of way.
Sure, I hear the theory. But I still don’t get why I would want a sticker of “me” next to a Weber, tanning a piece of cow, on my car’s rear window.
Could there be a secret society of men who braai cow, who salute each other with braai tongs when they see that stickman sticker? And ditto with mums who go to gym, kids who play sports, and even dogs and cats? Who knows?
Come to think of it, I’d rather have the local taxi association’s “Rank 5” sticker on the back of my car. Although that would probably classify me as a Neanderthal with no social conscience, at least I would be exempt from all the traffic laws of the land.