Memes and me
Recently I realized that my friend and I have been sending memes to each other on Messenger more than we engage in actual conversations. Our chat history is full of these funny images, GIFs, and Vine videos that have come to characterize our friendship. Because of our busy schedules, we hardly get to see each other. If we ask each other “How u been?” the reply would probably be a Pepe the Frog meme or a Crying Drake GIF.
Memes have taken over my life. Possibly 60 percent of my online browsing involves browsing through memes and tagging friends in the comments. In public places or in the office, other people would probably see me laughing by myself at some really funny meme I saw on Facebook. I work as a teacher, and I like to spice up my boring PowerPoint slides with some related memes.
Unless you’ve been living without internet connection for the past 10 years, you most likely have seen these memes—these funny, catchy, thought-provoking images, usually with a spot-on caption. Memes are everywhere in social media—on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, 9Gag—and they have become a widely used medium for young people to express themselves.
Members of older generations would probably look down on this “internet meme” explosion as another time-waster for millennials, among the countless other distractions we already enjoy on the internet. Some educators would probably worry about how today’s young people are more accustomed to short bits of text, and are having a hard time comprehending longer, deeper selections of text.
Personally, I like to see the meme as an interesting development in popular culture. I love how there are memes for everything—politics, pets, celebrities, family, math, love life, the struggles of student life—such that they have practically become some sort of social commentary for young people. I see a meme about being an introvert, or “adulting,” and I say to myself, Wow, this is so relatable!
Memes can become a way to discover like-minded netizens who share the same sentiments or have the same life experiences as ourselves. Memes can likewise become a way for young people to be updated on current affairs in our country. I recall how the recent Miss Universe pageant generated so many funny memes that displayed the trademark Filipino humor.
Memes can also be a springboard of discussion. I like reading through the comments about political memes on Facebook, and how different netizens engage in an interesting discussion about the topic, sharing different views and providing sound explanations for their opinions. If older people are quick to judge memes as a product of the “dumbing down” of today’s millennials, they should check out the comments. It’s amazing how ordinary citizens can deliver such profound insights on current issues. It’s also cool how a meme can provide an occasion for discussion among random people from all over the planet.
However, there is also a downside to these memes. Sometimes people generate memes that are hurtful and mean—for example, a few months back there was a trend among unkind internet users to post unflattering pictures of random people affixed with provocative captions.
Also, I would have to admit: Reading memes can be a huge time-waster if one doesn’t exercise discipline.
Okay, so you found this Facebook page called “Introvert Problems” and you find all these memes that are totally relatable! It’s nice to see that you’re not the only one with social anxiety! But then you waste several minutes looking at these memes, when you could actually go out there and mingle with people, get into actual conversations with them, and gain friends… instead of looking for reasons to justify your timidity.
Memes make us laugh, remind us that we’re not alone, and train a humorous light on depressing current events. But they can also be a call for reflection and action, instead of merely giving us a few seconds of entertainment. We find all these inspiring quotes with nice images, share them on our Facebook and Instagram feed, get a few “likes”… But did we actually apply that quote or Bible verse to make some needed changes in our lives?
Another challenge for young people is to stop scrolling through their social feeds, put down their phones, and have real, face-to-face interactions with others.
Occasionally I scroll through the countless memes my friend and I have sent each other over the past few months, and have a good laugh. But I look forward to the day when I can have a decent face-to-face conversation with her and ask, “How have you been?”
Lex Adizon, 24, is a teacher in Bacolod City.