I believe we’ve all had this situation:
We’re in bed with our loved one, looking at our phones, and we come across a meme we find applicable to our lives. We tap our partner on the shoulder, show them the meme, they shake their head and laugh, and then we go back to doing our heroin.
I love a good a meme. Last night after Jaimie and I watched The Bachelor (don’t hate, appreciate) we scrolled through a compilation of the best memes from the episode. My favorite was one showing Peter’s face realizing that he could have left with Hannah Brown two episodes ago. Jaimie has a “Same” folder on her Pinterest page that is just memes that she relates to. I text Memes to my sisters. I send them to my friends.
My students love memes more than I do. They have an entire vocabulary for them. There are Facebook Mom Memes. Minion Memes. We Live in a Society Memes. There are even Meme Lords, which is a term I refuse to have them explain to me.
Memes are important to the way this younger generation communicates. They even use them in acting class. A few weeks ago one of my students referenced a popular meme to give a classmate insight into a character’s mental state. “Your character feels like that meme with that guy who hasn’t slept for three days standing in front a board with a bunch of crazy conspiracy theories!” A lightbulb went off above her classmate’s head. All of a sudden everything clicked. Everything made sense. From then on her monologue was amazing.
As an artist, I appreciate the ability of a meme to take a complex idea and distill it down to its essence. It’s what I try to do every time I open my laptop and start to write.
At the same time, I’m pretty sure memes are ruining our country. Their ability to disseminate lies and disinformation at breakneck speed is staggering.
One of my social media friends posted one the other day. It was claiming that Nancy Pelosi spent $15,000 on pens for the impeachment signing, and that trump used Sharpie that cost 1.99 to sign a two billion dollar trade deal. (He also used a sharpie to alter a map from the national weather service to make one of his blatant lies about a hurricane hitting Alabama appear true, but that’s beside the point.) The meme went on to lavish praise on trump and tear down Pelosi by saying, “That’s the difference between a business man and a worthless politician.”
Because participating in our government has no worth, apparently.
The problem was the meme was blatantly untrue. It was disproved by a simple google search. The pens used for the impeachment signing cost $15 each and they were given away because the gifting of pens used to sign important political documents is a tradition as old as time.
I got into a week long political argument over a meme peddling lies about Obama and the Iran nuclear deal. Members of my family post nonstop memes about the threat of Sharia Law about how Michele Obama hates America. This one made me really bang my head against the wall- a family member posted a Hillary belongs in prison meme the day, THE ACTUAL DAY, the trump justice department dropped all investigations into her and the Clinton Foundation for lack of evidence.
It’s disheartening to say the least.
Someone posted a fact check on the pen meme before I was able to. The person thanked them for the information, but the meme stayed. Like a beacon of misinformation. Ready for someone to see it and believe it. Ready to take our country one step further from truth. One step closer to chaos.