The Teen Prank Tearing Up Twitter: Painting Memes on Your Friends’ Backs

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Photo: karleykoz/Twitter

Calling all parents of teenagers. While you’re out of sight, your kids are taking their tops off, lying down, and … painting memes on each other’s backs.

Prior to yesterday, I was blissfully ignorant of this fun trend. (Thanks, Twitter Moments.) So the story goes, teens convince their friends that they are going to paint their backs with images of luscious sunsets. But then, once their friends’ backs are turned, they switch gears and decorate them with memes. Primitive Sponge, Harambe, Mr. Krabs. You get the idea.

To fully understand these inspiring works of meme art, first you have to understand the significance of the sunset to the prank. The whole I’m going to paint a sunset on your back thing started as a trend on Pinterest and Instagram. Several teens I spoke with pointed to Twitter’s @BeMyCanvas, an account devoted to backs, thighs, and hands decorated with enough sunsets dotted with shadowy black palm trees (so artsy!) to fill at calendar year.

But interestingly enough, almost none of them actually knew someone who had, in sincerity, created a sunset back painting. “I can think of one other person I know IRL that has painted someone’s back before, so I guess it would be considered more of a Pinterest thing,” one high-schooler told me. Instead, the sunset painting jumped from Pinterest fantasy to full-on meme.

The youth also told me that part of the joke is that the friend who proffers up their back as a canvas knows they probably aren’t getting a beachy twilight scene down their spine. The “She thought I was painting a sunset” line is just part of the bit. “I think she was just going along with the joke. We all think the sunset memes are hilarious,” Alyssa, a high -chool student from Minnesota told me about her friend Ruby. Alyssa and another friend painted Ruby’s back with a confused Mr. Krabs. Which is, of course, an excellent meme, if not technically a sunset.

Of course, as with all memes, the back-painting trend of summer 2016 will likely run its course soon enough. (After all, nothing kills a good meme faster than writing about it. Unless you are Harambe.) The leaves will turn, the kids will put their shirts back on, and another internet phenomenon will come along. People are already inverting the gag on itself for a laugh, so I’d say it’s only a matter of time before we send back-painting to the meme graveyard to rest in peace forever, with Dat Boi.