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What were your first seven jobs? A simple question, but it dominated Twitter over the weekend. Turns out people love talking about themselves, cracking jokes, and discussing the current state of labor under capitalism. Who knew?
The #First7Jobs meme started with this earnest tweet from singer Marian Call:
What were your first 7 jobs?
Babysitting, janitorial, slinging coffee, yard work, writing radio news, voice-overs, data entry/secretarial
— Marian Call (@mariancall) August 5, 2016
And quickly picked up enough momentum to turn into a full-fledged hashtag game. As you might expect, jokers had a field day with it:
This seven jobs meme is the first time I’ve ever felt jealous of Jack Horkheimer, the Star Hustler.
— Paul Ford (@ftrain) August 7, 2016
— Jim Ray (@jimray) August 7, 2016
Most people answered seriously, though, and the results were revealing on a couple of levels.
Successful people’s answers reminded us that every once in a while, someone goes from washing dishes to being an astronaut. Or that a kid running a slushee machine can one day be Lin-Manuel Miranda.
But that’s a rare career trajectory, especially for younger people.
The other revealing thing about #First7Jobs is that very few people—even those relatively new to the workforce—reported having fewer than seven. Getting and keeping a job for life, then collecting a pension and retiring, is a thing of the past. If young people want pay increases, they have to change jobs.
So #First7Jobs turned out to be more than just another chain-letter survey —the kind that used to get passed around LiveJournal, but now get passed around Facebook. It’s simultaneously a reminder that success is still (kind of) possible (in rare cases), a commentary on the economic struggle most people are going through, and a new joke format to play with.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.