‘We Are So Back’ Is So Back

Before Lana Del Rey took the stage at Coachella last weekend, she rode through the crowd on the back of a motorcycle in a sparkly blue dress with her long blond hair flowing in the wind. It was her first performance at the event in a decade, and for some it recalled the bygone era of 2014 — perhaps a simpler time, when the festival was in what many consider its golden age.

In corners of the internet, Ms. Del Rey’s return to Coachella drew murmurs of agreement: We are so back.

Back to what, exactly? Great question. The phrase “we are back” — sometimes upgraded to the even more impassioned “we are so back” — is one half of a popular internet meme. When you’re back, things are good. You’re on top of the world. Your investments are up, your football team is winning, you outplayed an army of bots and scored tickets to see your favorite artist.

Or maybe it’s something even simpler. Two weeks of rain finally broke to reveal a gloriously sunny day. A reality show you like is starting a new season. You made it to the weekend.

The other half of the meme — it’s so over — is for when the chips are down. Your team loses. You have to tell your group chat that you did not score the concert tickets. The rain starts up again. Life, as far as this binary meme is concerned, is a constant fluctuation between being back and being over.

The internet encyclopedia Know Your Meme traces its origins to early 2021, when, perhaps not unrelated, Covid lockdowns began to ease and many people returned to once-familiar pleasures like dining at restaurants and going to parties.

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