I don’t have to explain what memes are, right?
A photo or series of photos or GIFs with text, usually simple text that makes you laugh? You see, you read, you chuckle, you share. And then you fight for a few hours with someone who insists on misinterpreting what the meme meant. Isn’t that so utterly jarring, though? Okay, yes, sometimes you know that you’re going to piss off someone and that’s kind of fun. Aw, this will get Jerry going, I love it when he breaks out the tin hat over stupid memes. All in the name of harmless fun, haha, it was just a joke, RELAX JERRY, JESUS. Have you ever blocked someone because of a meme? Not something that person said or did, but because they shared a graphic that made you completely doubt how you could ever have been friends with that person? I have, more so in the last 4 years than at any other time in my life. Worse yet, they have caused serious mental/emotional distress for some of my friends.
For instance…no nevermind. This isn’t about my friends’ experiences or about pointing the finger and saying HOW CAN YOU BE SO DAMN CALLOUS/GULLIBLE/JUVENILE while I click share on the same kind of bs.
I recently shared a meme and the first response was from a friend, one whom I consider intelligent and kind and a bit of a badass. It was not rude or anything, but she completely missed the point of the meme. Now normally, I go into literary interpretation mode when someone has issue with something I share. I try to explain what was meant and how it isn’t whatever you think it was because I cannot fathom how you got a completely different message from such a short bit of media. That is the nature and danger of memes. They are brief and therefore must appeal quickly and viscerally with the viewer in order to garner the emotional response desired. They are inside jokes where the inside is millions of people who “get it” without explanation
They will often be polarizing. Why? Think about the ones that you like the most. They make you laugh and go SO TRUE and share without thinking. They always confirm your bias. They stress hyperbole, false equivalency, and all those other standards of bad arguments. They are not meant to be honest or factual. They are meant to be shared. Now think about the ones you hate. They seem callous or thoughtless or hugely inaccurate. How could someone you know and actually like think anything like that? How could they share it and laugh? How could anyone believe this?!? What a snowflake/libtard/derogatory phrase of the moment! Well, turns out you just aren’t in on the joke.
Now normally if you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of needing an inside joke explained, it’s along the lines of “oh this happened and then he said this and oh my gawd you remember those shorts he used to wear what a loser, anyway, you had to be there.” In the case of memes, you have to have the right bias to not only get the joke but find it funny. If you don’t watch the right news or follow the right tweets or tik the right tok (I’m using that phrase correctly, right?), you won’t see what’s so funny. In fact, most of the time you will be furious, offended, and on fire to correct that highly inaccurate discourse. You will feel attacked and you will respond in kind, usually with false equivalencies and hyperbole of your own to demonstrate just how stupid that meme is.
There is a lot of information out there. Lots of news, lots of opinion pieces, lots of memes, lots of conspiracy theories. All of it is packaged to confirm a bias. All of it is framed in such a way that you will respond in two ways: laugh and share or get pissed and share. Notice the similarity.
I am losing my patience with this kind of packaging. Trump didn’t tell people to injest bleach. He has said all kinds of awful, untruthful, dangerous things, but no on bleach injections. I saw what he said. It was painful to watch but I was more upset by him spit-balling on television like a freaking amateur. Don’t think out loud on national television when people are relying on you for information, even if you’re being “sarcastic.” The coverage of it pissed me off even more, but I digress.
Take, for instance, the protests going on all over the country. Memes have packaged them so easily for me to dismiss legitimate concerns of millions of Americans. People are really complaining about being stuck home when x, y, and z was so much worse? How selfish! Complaining because they want a haircut/lawn seed/beach time when tens of thousands are dead after only 2 months of this plague? I can’t imagine being so privileged that my roots are more important than the health and safety of another person. Deplorable!
And I don’t believe that bs. I know some people are selfish and thoughtless. I know some people watch too much YouTube. But they can’t all be Karens jonesing for a mani/pedi. And just look at all the GOOD that has come out of the woodwork. Churches and schools and charities and just millions of people going above and beyond to help their neighbors. Have you watched Some Good News with John Krazinski? You will bawl.
We are ALL OF US scared right now. We are looking at the rising unemployment and the rising infection rates and doing a lot of math. It’s the worst kind of math. How many more people will die from the economy crashing? Who do we risk to prevent the crash? Unemployment benefits don’t last forever, if you can get them. Always, always it is the poorest, the most vulnerable of us that suffer when crisis hits. Look at how hard the black community has been hit by the virus, on top of everything else. If they aren’t killed by plague, they are killed by vigilantes for looking scary while people with actual automatic weapons parade about with impunity even when actively threatening other citizens.
And all I want to know is WHY? Not why do people consistently prove themselves to be trash while simultaneously showing how amazing the human race can be. WHY IS IT A CHOICE BETWEEN DYING FROM STARVATION AND DYING FROM PLAGUE? Yes, that is an over-simplification of a highly complex issue. Kind of like a meme, amiright?
That, my dudes, is the fight and it’s a total fabrication. The one side says keeping us closed is useless because Covid-19 isn’t that bad/the numbers are overblown/deep state conspiracy/economy crash will be worse you monster. The other side says opening is stupid because Covid-19 is that bad/the numbers are underblown/deep state conspiracy/you can’t sacrifice lives for the economy you monster.
Congrats, you’re probably all right! That’s not the actual issue here. The issue is people monetizing a disaster. The issue is people politicizing the potential deaths of millions of Americans. The issue is that people die either way but it isn’t someone you know so
Anyway, memes. I swear this was just going to be about how fascinating I find memes. Here’s the message I want you to take home. Take TEN EFFING SECONDS TO THINK BEFORE YOU SHARE. And then, take ten seconds before you start a fight/leave a comment. Your dissertations on the inaccuracy of whatever will do absolutely nothing to change anyone’s mind. You will argue at cross-purposes until one of you quits. If your first thought is “Well actually” just scroll on by, hon.
My friend who misinterpreted that meme, I didn’t get into a fight with her. She basically called me on the biased nature of the post and I acknowledged it. Like a freaking adult. And believe it or not, she didn’t misinterpret it. Her bias just raised a flag that I would have picked up on if it hadn’t suited my personal feelings so much. People will be glib with things you find frightening, horrifying, and deadly serious. People will make broad brush statements that will feel like personal attacks. Don’t name call. Don’t mansplain. Don’t diatribe. If you have to say something, maybe don’t until you’ve thought about it for a while. Even better, ASK FOR CLARIFICATION. I’m sorry, I don’t understand the reference? That will start a conversation hopefully, as long as you are genuine in your curiosity.
Exceptions: Total falsehoods, dangerous medical advice, racist/sexist/phobic rhetoric
Total Falsehoods: leave a link to a fact checking site, but make sure it’s a legit source. If you can’t cite a legit source, move on by.
Dangerous Medical Advice: leave a link to a credible medical source. And hey, if you share some video or story of someone hacking a miracle cure or something just for the “look at how dumb this person is,” make damn sure you add context. Facepalm emoji will keep people from thinking you really believe silver nail polish is the perfect sealant on a cloth mask against those pesky germs.
Racist/Sexist/Phobic Rhetoric: the only way we can correct cultural bias is to call people on it. If that’s too confrontational for you or you’re not sure why something is making you uncomfortable, report it.
Finally, for the love of all that is good and holy on this doomed planet, don’t read the comments.