The human race is constantly plagued by a seemingly infinite number of crises including but not exclusive to: nuclear threats, economic recessions, dwindling natural resources, The War on Holograms, and Sarah McLachlan and her one-eyed dogs. While I could concentrate on any of these issues, notably how Ms. McLachlan ruined “Angel” for me forever, I’d like to focus on the most pressing issue of all, unprecedented by its profound impact on our society: The Meme. By “meme,” I am referring specifically to internet memes including a picture and caption, as this one featuring visionary rapper, actor, and ride-pimper, Xzibit, so artfully represents:
The rare few who avidly use the social networking site The Facebook (Did she just say ‘THE Facebook?’) have likely witnessed such witticisms in your newsfeed. You may also have noticed their increasing popularity and abundance within the past couple years. As The ‘Book (Again, with this girl) continually evolves and caters to our increasingly shorter attention spans, it’s become more photo/video/ooh-shiny-object friendly, making a mere text update of original thought a thing of the past. The meme, combining images with clear, concise captions, is an eye-catching, effective conduit of a message that has the potential of obliterating the text status update completely. Like, one day, we’re gonna wake up and Facebook is gonna be all, “Hey! Introducing a whole new look! No more words! These are the last words you’ll read on our site! Don’t forget to update your ‘privacy’ settings!” And we’ll all scramble to find a meme to upload that reflects how pissed off we are about the new FB changes.
If that sounds straight up wiggidy wack to you, consider the original concept of Facebook and social networking sites in general. The Facebook of our forefathers, i.e.. . . us five years ago, was a website used to connect with and interact with friends despite location and conflicting schedules. Status updates actually had to be acknowledged by words, not a ‘Yo, Thumbs Up I Read This/Sort of Skimmed It/Looked at It/Noticed You Posted Something And Think You’re Hot So Here You Go.” Ah, the good old days. Everything was so simple back then.
Half a decade later, however, it appears we don’t have anything to say. I sure know I don’t!. . . I don’t fault the meme for this. After all, we live in a technology-run world that requires little exerted mental energy on our part, and we think it’s awesome. It is kind of awesome, except for when it makes us really stupid. But, back to the issue at hand: FACEBOOK. Rather than using the network as a source for connecting, we post viral videos, photos that we Instagram’d to look ’60s-ish, check-ins, and circulations of hysterical memes that take some mutual latent thought of ours and make it fucking HILARIOUS. And, sarcasm aside, some of them are absolutely hilarious and great. A lot of them are harmless, clever observations of our society. So, you may be asking yourself, “So, what’s your point, dawg?” And I say to you: How dare you speak to me in that tone. Only Xzibit may speak to me in that tone! I’m a scholar, goddamnit.
The trouble arises when memes cross the border from observational jokes to legitimate criticisms of practically anything. You see, the underlying assumption of a meme is whatever caption is stated is a matter of fact, as I said before, a shared latent thought that one soul was creative and wise enough to develop into captioned art. Whether simple or complex, the reader is subconsciously drawn to think, “That is so true!” Perhaps they may evoke some further thought, but let’s be honest. You’re staring at a meme. That is likely not the case. So, the Let’s Take These Words At Face Value And Not Really Think Yet Still Be Persuaded By A Goddamn Meme mentality is permeating social networks. And this becomes a problem, oh, let’s say, right here:
I don’t think I need to discuss the ignorance and ethnocentric values that went into creating this, because I’m kinda hoping you know. If you don’t know, feel free to stop reading around here, because I’m sure nothing else I’ve said makes any sense to you, either. Anywho, I was subject to seeing this along with such critical acclaim as, “So true!” and “That’s awesome!!!” amongst this little bit of hilarity: “In 2003 when we first went to Iraq we used to tell hadjii that fuck you meant hello so they would say it to other soldiers and get the shit stomped out of them LMFAO!!!!!!”
LMFAO, indeed. None of these people stopped to think about its implications or have any sense of empathy, apparently. What worries me is that such a mindless yet influential trend could evolve and dominate our social networks- that eye-catching pictures with a seemingly bold message attached will be the way to “express ourselves.” Stupid little memes that someone, somewhere created, potentially involving little to no thought but still resonating with and influencing people who don’t care to think. Ones that reinforce racism, ethnocentrism, superiority of anyone to anyone else. In a sense, conditioned to believe “This is true, ‘cuz a meme said so.” That might seem like an exaggeration, but I’ve seen crazier shit go down. (And you’d totes believe me if I made a meme about it! Also, go look at some Red Scare-era propaganda posters.) What began as a silly form of entertainment to a bunch of irony-loving nerds across the interwebz infiltrated Facebook homepages took off, providing people with another way to not have to think about shit because it’s thought about for them.
Oh, snap. I almost forgot this gem of pure genius:
Alright. So. In spite of the incorrect spelling of “countries” and major flaw in logic, a bunch of people supported this argument, commending its poignant commentary on patriotism, the effective and just system that is capitalism including relations to analogous and contrasting systems, and the benefits of Freedom of Speech As Long As It’s Nice And Shows Gratitude For People Who Are Fighting For Your Freedom of Speech As Long As It’s Nice And Etc.
Wait. I’m sorry. None of that was there at all. This reads like a deluded or dumbed-down, ironic political cartoon. And, why would you need a photo to make that statement? Because photographs are captivating. They are memorable. They just have more of an effect on whoever is looking at them than those particular string of words alone.
At the end of the day, emes alone are harmless. I simply think people need to be aware of their impact. The further we stray away from using actual, legitimate ideas to communicate, the more susceptible people will be to believing anything for any reason. I guess, in conclusion, I’m pushing people to think.