If you had to take a step back from the world and assess our changing popular culture identity, how would you sum it up in one word?
I would sum it up with:
Now before you all laugh, cringe and complain about what (at this point) seems to be the beginning of the decline of quality content from the News Committee, hear me out.
For those who don’t know, our reliable friend Google has defined a meme as ‘an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations’. No one is quite sure where they come from, but they have developed a colossal influence on the way we share and receive news and ideas, especially among our friends.
My personal experiences with memes has been positive, mainly stemming from falling down the vacuous rabbit hole of Facebook, first laughing at cats and falling for the old Rickroll, before evolving to content that comes from a more fine and acquired taste, deep in the bowels of my timeline.
Do you remember a time when any social media feed – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were meme-free? The answer may vary depending on age, but to teeangers, that meme-deprived time was short lived. You can’t look anywhere without seeing memes, or even talk about them. In 2017, we are an internet-centric generation, using the internet as a tool to communicate with our friends, check the news and generally educate ourselves and keep in the loop with what is happening around the world. What does the average teenager realistically do with all the time they spend on the internet?
It’s definitely not homework.
Memes have infiltrated our lives at such an interesting point in history, and don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. They are steadily becoming the focal point of communication and entertainment, offering something that everyone can relate to. Memes may seem like a joke (and in many aspects, they are) but we shouldn’t underestimate their power and influence on everyday pop culture and current events, which take up a huge space in our lives.
Let’s just look at it as a means of communication. You see your friends every day, in and out of school, but no matter what, when you see something that reminds you of them, you will tag them in it. How else are they going to know about your love for “Fireflies”? Or how those doggos are VERY cute.
Delving into the more emotional side of things, being tagged in a meme is always a wholesome feeling as it’s nice to know that you are thought of, or that you remind someone of something. Memes can keep a friendship strong, or even build them – as they are a valid form of bonding over questionable senses of humour. For many, they are even a source of happiness, or just a means of coping with the everyday ups and downs of life. Looking at memes that understand your frustrations with school life, or just things that are oddly specific but relate to you nonetheless. It’s good to feel as if you have something to relate to, or even a similar group of people that share the same humour and interests.You can look at aesthetically pleasing pictures of architecture, and then scroll to a meme with a relatable stock image. They can easily brighten your day- turning that frown upside down. Take history memes for example. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I stumbled upon ‘Sassy Socialist Memes’ or ‘Esoteric French Revolution memes’ in my browsing. I even came across ‘Debate Meme Central’, which has a small niche, but is still a good laugh, knowing that there are others who share the same activities and experiences. Even though much of meme humour is becoming increasingly incomprehensible to the untrained mind, you are guaranteed to find something to relate to.
They have such a huge effect on pop culture on our youth, and we need to acknowledge it in a generally positive manner. Because of their high level of relatability, they are able to span countries and cultures, and become a highly effective tool of sharing news and ideas quickly, in an easily digestible manner. After all, as the phrase goes: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Some universities are also beginning to recognize the importance of memes, with Northwestern University in the USA being the first institution to offer a degree in ‘Memeology’.
Memes are also an important form of expression, going along the lines of political ideology, cultural phenomena, or movements within society. They are not so much a poignant artform, but instead, take on the form of parody or manipulation to get a point or idea across. It also acts as a universal coping mechanism, for the increasingly anxiety-inducing state of the world. Whatever form they take, they are an important insight into how many people perceive the world, especially in a day and age where we have the entire internet at our fingertips.
So even though current memes may be frowned upon by adults who still repost ‘soccer mom minion memes’, they shouldn’t be disregarded as they are a credible tool of our time. While they may still be seen as an articulation of juvenile humor and behaviour to some, they are a landmark piece of web culture in our history of interaction and expression as internet explorers.
So Wipe Ya Docs Off, and go explore the museum of modern memes in your own personal Virtual Experiences.
More people will catch on, and memes will live forever.
Written by: Elena Pihera
Edited by: Tara Jackson