Live. Laugh. Love. Three words which have always been frequently used, but never so consistently in that order until recent years. You can’t have failed to see them on Instagram, usually as a pseudo-spiritual hashtag to accompany a photograph of a former Love Island contestant gazing out to sea, or captioning a photo of someone you went to school with kissing their boyfriend on a mini break to Brighton.
Many of us may never have dreamed of dropping this phrase into an Instagram caption but despite this, it has become the mantra of many. In fact, a quick search on Instagram shows that there have been 3.5m recent posts bearing #LiveLaughLove in their caption.
The phrase hasn’t just invaded our social media feeds but our real lives, too. Online retailers like Not on the High Street, Etsy and Wayfair all stock hundreds of items urging us to Live, Laugh and Love in our homes with purchases like wall stickers, coasters, pillows and, somewhat inexplicably, a bracelet which bears the slogan in Morse code.
While 'Keep Calm and Carry On' became the defining mantra of the beginning of this decade, 'Live Laugh Love' has undoubtedly been that of the latter few years.
Where did this all begin? It’s actually more literary than you might think. While it has often been misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the words were first linked together in a poem called "Success" by Iowan writer Bessie Anderson Stanley in 1904.
The opening line of the poem reads: "He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much." It was originally written as the winning entry in an essay contest run by Brown Book Magazine, for which Bessie won a cash prize of $250 (£190) which paid off the mortgage on her house, among other things. When she died in 1952, aged 73, the verse was inscribed on her gravestone in Lincoln Cemetery, Kansas.
The words cropped up again in James Joyce’s 1939 novel Finnegans Wake. "They lived and laughed and loved and left," Joyce writes – a phrase which has been used on sympathy cards and in eulogies ever since.
Fast-forward 80 years and you can now even be buried in Live, Laugh, Love. C.J Boots casket company in Anderson, Indiana notoriously offered a shabby chic-styled coffin with the words Lived. Laughed. Loved written in cursive on the inside.
Owner Chris Boots explains that in the three years since they came up with the idea for the coffin's design it has become one of their most popular. "We’ve found that our customers really like the option of this casket, it’s a more of a whitewashed look which is a popular style; but the quote is extremely popular too," Boots says, adding that he has never seen anything similar on the market. "We’re pretty creative here, they’re very bespoke: they sell for around $1500-$2500 (£1,150-£1,915)."
While some of us might balk at the idea of decorating our coffins with inspirational quotes, many more of us are perfectly okay with putting them all over our homes. Online home store Wayfair stocks over 56K Live, Laugh, Love products. A representative for the company revealed that its Live Laugh Love Wall Sticker (£11.99) is a bestseller. "It’s a fun, affordable and a flexible temporary alternative to wallpaper," they added.
Are these positive affirmations evidence that we are all just searching for a glimmer of hope amid the desolate wasteland of modern life, modern politics and the aching chasm of human waste that is social media?
Handmade and vintage website Etsy revealed via its trend expert, Dayna Isom Johnson that there have been over 103,000 searches on Etsy for 'Live Laugh Love' in the last 12 months alone – and there are 8,123 products bearing the words on the site. She adds: "Shoppers are increasingly identifying with other positive affirmations, including 'good vibes', 'be kind' and 'dream big'."
This might help explain why these pseudo-spiritual offerings are currently invading our homes and Instagram grids. Are these positive affirmations evidence that we are all just searching for a glimmer of hope amid the desolate wasteland of modern life, modern politics and the aching chasm of human waste that is social media? Is it, perhaps, an attempt to be good when things are so, so bad?
Faith Cooke, an Instagram fitness influencer, says that this is exactly why she uses the hashtag on the majority of her Instagram posts. She wants to "remind people to live happy and not to take what you do so seriously," and adds: "You should love your life and where you’re at. You should love yourself and laugh at yourself. So I use it for so many reasons but mainly to love who you are and to remember to laugh!"
This doesn’t wash with everyone, though. During US comedian Sara Schaefer’s Live, Laugh, Love standup show earlier this year, she admitted that she holds this particular home decor trend entirely responsible for the "decay of modern society".
"Inspirational quotes on pieces of driftwood in multiple fonts?" she says (adding that these fonts are more often than not Times New Roman, Lucida and EB Garamond). "If you need a sign to remind you to laugh, are you alright? Talk to someone, you’re not okay."
She continues: "If it's not 'Live Laugh Love' it’s 'You had me at Merlot' or 'Why walk when you can dance?' If the number of signs you have in your house is bigger than zero, you have too many."
Harsh, yes. True, perhaps. For the time being, though, Live, Laugh, Love doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere – and inspirational quotes are going to be masquerading as Instagram captions for many years to come. The only thing to do? Keep Calm and Carry On.