Everything is happening so much.
The ice caps are melting at an alarming pace. Trust in democracy is crumbling, the bees are dying, and everything you love ends up being problematic.
Overwhelmed by the sheer weight of existence? Vibe check.
The phrase “vibe check” has a multitude of definitions, because nobody can really narrow it down to one concise explanation. According to the first definition on Urban Dictionary, a vibe check is a “spontaneous and usually random time where someone checks your vibe.” It’s supposed to be a pleasant experience, like a check-in from a friend.
The second definition is a 180: “A vibe check is a time where you’re about to deck someone with your fists or another blunt object while you’re on a vibe or when they say some stupid shit.”
vibe check *kisses you tenderly so you understand how deeply i love and cherish you*
— 🎃 chupacabr-ALE 🎃 (@oodlenoodle_) September 12, 2019
You’re not battling demons bro, you just failed a vibe check
— 𝖈𝖚𝖒 𝖒𝖆𝖓 (@cake_hoarder) October 3, 2019
Although Urban Dictionary also includes a definition dating back to 2011, the first documented public vibe check on social media occurred in March this year, when Twitter user @umru_ tweeted, “vibe check?”
It was further popularized by Twitter user @cake_hoarder in April, who starts every day by tweeting bizarre images with a good morning vibe check.
Umru, a music producer, first said the phrase “vibe check” out loud while planning an event and trying to figure out the vibe it needed. Saying “vibe check” was the most efficient way to convey that to their graphic designer.
“I’m not gonna claim ownership of it but I find it funny that a couple large Twitter accounts have made it their “thing” in the months since then,” he said in a Twitter DM to Mashable.
It’s a jab at @cake_hoarder, whose morning vibe checks are not vibing with Umru.
But even the phrase’s creator couldn’t quite summarize what “vibe check” has come to mean over the past six months. He did note that “the world is definitely fucked for young people” so the violent imagery often paired with vibe checks makes sense.
Instead of a verbal explanation, Umru says this video best captures up what a vibe check means to him.
To truly unpack what “vibe check” really means in this hellscape, I turned to my group chat of Very Online people.
“[A] vibe check is getting a read on someone’s mood, aura, or aesthetic,” writer Palmer Haasch said. “To my understanding it also means whacking the shit out of someone. Sometimes you read someone by smacking them.”
And you can argue that after reading someone’s bad mood, you can smack them with a call out. Think of it as a heads-up so you can brace yourself for impact. Vibe check.
In a similar vein to @cake_hoarder’s daily vibe checks, Verge reporter Makena Kelly says the phrase is a way to keep tabs on loved ones.
“We should all just text our friends every morning ‘vibe check,” she said. “It’s the new gm [good morning.]”
Despite the questionable imagery of hedgehogs wielding pistols or the jellyfish from SpongeBob SquarePants dancing around a burning clarinet @cake_hoarder still believes vibe checks are a morale boost.
“Consider a vibe check to be a little check up on the people,” he said in a Twitter DM. “Checkin in and making sure people’s days are off to a good start.”
@Cake_hoarder says he’s gotten “some heat” from other Twitter users, who think he claims to be the creator of the phrase.
“I do think I’ve played a role in popularizing it, though. At the end of the day I’m just some dude vibin on Twitter,” he said.
just got sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for failing a vibe check
it was a good run fellas 😔✌️
— JOKO (@ItsJoko) October 5, 2019
You can’t really explain vibe checks with words — a vibe is a vibe. But you can with context.
Having a shitty day? Vibe check. Caught a glimpse of yourself looking cute in the club bathroom? Vibe check. About to get a WWE-style smackdown with a folding chair for tweeting about how quirky your love for Target is? Vibe check.
A vibe check boils down to expressing your emotional state, whether it’s heartwarming or deeply concerning. Sometimes that involves a reaffirming kiss on the forehead, and sometimes that involves making light of historic assassinations. It’s a nonsensical phrase to both deal with, and vocalize, just how tired we all are. Despite the bleak outlook, we still have vibe checks to make sure our friends are doing OK.