Millennials are often ridiculed for all that they do (and don’t do). But the truth is, this generation has had more unique challenges as compared to its predecessors. More often than not, memes are regarded as a problematic mode of communication. We discuss the phenomenal rise of this medium and deliberate how it negatively affects discourse the of ideas.
A meme (/?mi?m/ MEEM) is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture — often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by it. A meme can be described as a cultural unit that channels political discourse and agitation and is a representation of interaction in the contemporary digital world.
Unlike other forms of communication, memes are visual, faster, and more likely to adapt to change. Memes tend to evolve and adapt in order to be tailored to be relatable to every new audience it is introduced to. They are very malleable and can be edited to suit the ideology of particular groups of people. Memes are an extremely popular form of communication that is gaining popularity amongst millennials because of the elusiveness that comes along with it. Since most memes are in the form of images, they are cryptic to an extent. Therefore by sharing memes not only do people get to communicate about topics of common interest, they also get to share and understand inside jokes. It is interesting how memes are not just limited to mainstream media and pop-culture. Everything and everyone interesting including Vladimir Lenin, Barack Obama, Mckayla Maroney, Elizabeth I, Robert Mugabe, and even SpongeBob have been turned into memes. Memes are not just limited to what everyone is talking about; there are also unique memes for special occasions and jokes. For instance, “wholesome memes” spread positivity and love and are extremely popular on social media. Communism memes that try to highlight the pros of communism in a humourous way, and doggo memes i.e. memes related to interesting dogs and their activities are also seemingly popular. These memes are an extremely casual and a popular way to communicate with friends.
Believe it or not, these days tagging friends in memes or getting tagged in good memes is one of the best identifiers of close friendship and affection. To be tagged in memes by friends is an extremely popular method of interaction amongst millennials. It is regarded as polite and appropriate to incorporate our friends through memes and make them an active part of it.
Meme culture is a societal and cultural revolution that has allowed people to control the narrative that surrounds popular culture. When people have the autonomy to not only make memes talking about issues they are passionate about, but also share them as they please, they are being given greater freedom in how we discuss major events in everyday life.
However, even though the concept of memes started out on the internet as a way to spread humour, the status quo reflects a different, more negative side of the very popular expression of wit. The so-called “meme lords” fail to recognise the level of influence they have on young internet users. Since memes have made their way into mainstream journalism, with popular online media websites posting them to gain more traction, the fact that the question of ethics with regard to memes has still not been raised is unfathomable. A lot of the times, memes are made using pictures and videos (mostly without adequate permission), taken out of context and are blown out of proportion to ridicule. Recently the memes of “Durgesh” and “Kamlesh” went astoundingly viral within the Indian meme culture. The reality that soon came to light though, uncovering two very serious issues, being that of child drug abuse and mental health. The family of the person whose picture was used to create the character of Durgesh issued a public statement which urged the public to stop using and spreading the meme as they felt harassed. The Kamlesh meme was picked out of a BBC documentary on the drug abuse highly prevalent in the rural areas of India. The purpose of the documentary was to spread awareness about this problem as opposed to express amusement at the way the underage child was talking.
The origin of memes on the internet was to perpetuate and spread hilarity and positivity, and not to ridicule, mock, and deride. However, memes have now been reduced to disregard and parody a social issue which is highly problematic considering the instant access and exposure that memes warrant.
Feature Image Credits: Image Flip