“You have a smooth brain. No ridges or lumps, no valleys or bumps,” a soothing voice says in a TikTok audio used in almost 100,000 videos. “All ideas slide right off.”
The “smooth brain” TikTok audio, created by a TikToker named Lucas, dominated pet-centric content in 2023. The phrase implies reduced brain capacity, and because the wrinkles in and on brains make them more efficient, a smooth brain would be a less efficient one—the phrase isn’t a scientific one, just internet slang. Pet owners everywhere posted footage of their pets doing something silly (or just existing) and rejoiced in their smooth brain life: One free of critical thinking, complex emotions, and existential dread.
But where did this hallmark of Gen Z internet slang—and the inspiration for many a meme—come from?
Smooth brain meme: The origins
The phrase “smooth brain” originated in 2020 as a reaction to the tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic. As society faced massive amounts of uncertainty and sudden death, many online joked that they’d be better off not thinking than having to process reality.
One of the most common memes about the concept are those that compare non-smooth brains to smooth brains. This can be done via photos of brains and smooth brains (usually represented by a photo of a chicken breast) and might include a list of differences between the two.
“Smooth, no [wrinkles], cute, cant think=no sad,” a meme says of smooth brains. In contrast, regular brains are “bumpy weird” have “gross wrinkles,” and are able to think, meaning they are sad.
“Insult me all you wish” meme
Having a smooth brain is also a defense mechanism for some meme-makers: A popular smooth brain meme template relies on the phrase “insult me all you wish. My brain is too smooth. The smoothest there is. Your words simply slide right off.”