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Everything you do is wrong, including the way you eat a burger

Life hacks offer the siren song of painless self-improvement.

A classic cheeseburger, upside down.
Getty Images/EyeEm

Do you think you know how to eat a hamburger? You do not.

According to “life hacks” expert Grant Thompson — best known on YouTube as the King of Random — the best way to eat a hamburger is in fact upside down, so that the top bun (with the sesame seeds) is on the bottom, supporting the burger, and the bottom bun (flat, without sesame seeds) is on the top.

While Thompson has been evangelizing this particular life improvement technique since at least 2013, it resurfaced last week when the Sun caught wind of his meat-based wisdom.

The issue is structural integrity: As Thompson explains, the top half of a hamburger bun is “twice as thick” as the bottom part, and “a lot more durable.” And because it rests atop the burger, rather than under it, it is less likely to have been weakened by burger juices and/or sauces, which can lead to bottom bun collapse.

But if you flip the burger, then you have a thicker and therefore more structurally sound base of support for your sandwich. Thus, “your filling will start to soak into the top half of the bun, rather than out the sides” — unlike the bottom, the top is not yet saturated — and so it’s “much less likely you’ll suffer any unwanted spillages.” Additionally, if the burger has been constructed in accordance with standard protocol, the lettuce will now be under the patty, rather than on top of it, and so will double as a drip guard to catch errant drops of sauce.

This, of course, is not Thompson’s only tip for easy better living. The same video also features hacks for cutting mangos, drinking from straws, controlling ant infestations, and serving potato chips at parties. Nor is this the only hack on the internet for eating hamburgers: There are techniques for holding hamburgers (lightly, with three fingers evenly spread on top, thumbs and pinkies on bottom); shaping hamburgers (use a jar lid); ensuring juicy hamburgers (add ice); and correctly sequencing burger accoutrements (again, lettuce on bottom).

Do you need to do any of these things? Probably not! But the insidious appeal of the life hack is that none of it is exactly necessary. You may have been “doing it wrong” before, like all those other plebes who don’t know to weave their BLT bacon into little bacon tapestries (bacon in every bite!) or cut their cakes (all the way across, apparently) or use their cheese graters horizontally (good tip!) or properly vacuum-seal their ziplock bags (use your mouth), but you were still more or less doing it.

Instead, the life hack is an unearned advantage — you are just slightly superior to everyone else (truly, our shared lifetime goal), a little savvier, marginally more efficient. And sometimes they work, these life hacks! Peeling off the skin, rather than scooping out the flesh, is indeed a better way to prepare an avocado. (Other life hacks remain questionable: The jury is still out, for example, on the efficacy of adding baking soda to the water for easier-to-peel hard-boiled eggs.)

What is sinister about life hacking is not the tips themselves — many are good, and regardless, almost all are trivial — but rather what they represent: a constant race for efficiency, not just in working, but in sleeping, eating, breathing, and being married. It is, as Nikil Saval argued at Pacific Standard, that hacks have turned the act of existing into “a set of problems to solve and systems to optimize.” (It is not a coincidence that life hacking echoes a much earlier American obsession: maximizing the efficiency of the industrial workforce.)

At the same time, the life hack offers hope. There is a better way to be a person in the world! And maybe that improvement is about your lunch and not, say, the criminal justice system — a life hack is always small and always personal — but hope, at any scale, is appealing. You are so close to a more perfect existence; just change the way you hold your burger, and a better life awaits.

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