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“You are now breathing manually” is one of many statements like “The Final Countdown is now playing in your head”, “Remove your left hand from your face and uncross your legs/feet”, and “you are now aware of your tongue in your mouth” which are meant to trigger a specific reaction from the reader, mainly centered upon the sudden self-awareness of automatic bodily functions.
Self-consciousness and mind suggestion
Self-consciousness is defined, by Wikipedia, as an acute sense of self-awareness:
When feeling self-conscious, one becomes aware of even the smallest of one’s own actions.
Concerning the meme, which bases itself more on the sudden awareness of one’s body, the pattern evolves according to mind suggestion, that can be sometimes seen as a mind trick : Suggesting something that can genuinely and suddenly push the reader/viewer to be part of it or to act like it as a reflex.
As an example, Read this in my voice is closely related to that scheme.
Another great meme entirely based on that concept is The Game and is also often seen following a You are now breathing manually or the like catchphrase
Everything2 defines itself as being a website featuring “a collection of user-submitted writings about, well, pretty much everything.”
On February the 14th 2001, user phenylketonurics wrote a piece questioning about the concepts of blinking and breathing. In it, he stated :
Try to think about blinking and breathing. Come on, do it. Seriously, don’t just read this, but actually do what it says.
No, Really. Think about it. Think about blinking and breathing.
Welcome to my hell.
Now you’re totally fucking screwed, because now that you’re thinking about this crap you have just taken the reigns of your involuntary bodily functions.
While that text is more of a philosophical piece of writing about autosuggestion and doesn’t really deal with the catchphrases themselves, it shows the basis of what would become a mind trick achieved through words.
This troll originated in the hayday of /. trolling – back before trolling had diffused evenly across the entire internet like today. ThinkAboutYourBreath was the account name and this is the 2nd time it was ever posted online, I can’t find the first (one of the earliest, dating February 1st 2004)
[As an aside this is interesting because, being the creator of the slashdot account and thus the troll, I never really spread it apart from posting it roughly a dozen times there. It took several years for it to reach ‘meme’ status]
Here’s a list of all the troll attempts on Slashdot.org by that user.
That mind game would then show up the 3rd of January 2005 on the Xgenstudios.com forums with a thread basically entitled *YOU ARE NOW BREATHING MANUALLY*
The thread lasted 3 pages and that game seemed appreciated by users.
Threads and signatures
That game expanded itself to other websites :
- Geeknewz.com (22th of January 2005)
- ewbattleground (1st of April 2005)
- Wow-europe forums (2008)
- DeviantArt (2008)
- Facepunch thread (2008)
- Reddit (2009)
- Bodybuilding forum (July 2009)
- sythe.com (2009)
- gametrailer forum (February 2010)
- There is nothing like cold water (July 2010)
Or even Lagbox.com website having it as a tagline.
Many people also added those catchphrases as forum signatures, in order to trick the reader some more :
That kind of game also pops regurlarly on 4chan.
One of the earliest archive about it is from the 13th of January 2008 and calls it a self-consciousness thread… [Caution : 4chanarchive link and NSFW content ahead]
by the writing, it also implies that it wasn’t the first time that game existed on 4chan.
Mind suggestion as seen by advertisers : Portal
Portal is a single-player first-person action/puzzle video game developed by Valve Corporation. The game was released in a bundle package called The Orange Box for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 on October 9, 2007 and for the PlayStation 3 on December 11, 2007.
One of their main tagline, that can be seen through ads, was Now you’re thinking with portals :
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