Why is the internet stapling slices of bread to trees? An investigation
It is difficult to ascertain who exactly stapled the first piece of bread to a tree, but it was in May 2019 that a Brisbane resident took to the Redcliffe Peninsula Facebook group to share a photograph of a slice of white loaf attached to a trunk. He asked whether the unusual sighting meant something untoward.
Members redirected him to the Reddit group BreadStapledToTrees, a community which began in 2017 but has seen a recent rise in the number of submissions it's receiving.
The three primary rules on the group are: '1. Don’t post non-bread, 2. Don’t post non-Stapled bread and 3. Don’t staple it to non-trees'. It all may sound like a puerile joke which only a few people would join in on, but as of today the group has 212,000 users and rising.
A reasonable question would be to ask why people are engaging in such a ridiculous act, but the only explanation from the group seems to be a screenshot of the Google definition of bread as a "staple food".
While the premise is simple enough, the execution has inspired creativity, with users posting stapled bagels and pizza slices. Some bread is attached under the cover of darkness, and sometimes users take to covering a trunk with a patchwork of slices. At times it's a community of support ("That looks like white on oak to me. dude you can’t get any more classic than that. This staple is perfect in my eyes"), but lines have been drawn too, with one post discouraging users from breading Bonsai trees because, "the staple can actually cause damage and kill the tree."
Users often give details about the grain profile of the bread and species of tree, like 'Sprouted spelt w/ roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds on silver maple', or 'Dempster’s White on Canadian Oak', both varied wonders of the world.
The art of the stapling itself is also being debated, with some posts discussing their tactics for keeping the bread on the tree, such as "4 Staples for Maximum Wind Resistance". Users have taken to analysing fellow contributors and what the artist's intentions might be, as one wrote while reviewing another stapled slice, "Beauty and Aggression in this stapling - the torn bread symbolises the sheer passion behind this stapling - the way the light glistens off the corner of the crust - well done!"
Viral challenges often have an element of danger to them, with examples including the Tide Pod challenge, or else they give participants something impressive to share on their social media accounts, like the Ice Bucket Challenge or Bottle Cap challenge.
There's nothing glamorous, skilful or daring about stapling a slice of bread to a tree trunk, which, perhaps, is exactly the point of it. The craze is a celebration of doing something stupid and finding meaning in nothing, a throwback to when the internet was less self-serving and more a maze of corners in which people fill their time with strange activities.
Like the viral painting challenge that lit up the social network earlier this year, the bread stapling phenomenon brings online communities into the real world, linking up strangers across the world in the same pursuit. Pokemon Dough, if you will.
This was apparent 6 days ago when one user uploaded a photograph captioned: "Found One In The Wild. Hamburger Buns Count?" It was an exciting moment of two strangers on the internet having crossed paths in real life. Tree-stapled proof we're not quite as far apart as we feel when hiding behind a screen.
A beautiful thing, or at least until one user replied, "those are Hawaiian sweet rolls you son of a b**ch."