Memes are everywhere on social media; they practically are social media. And I fucking love it.
Memes are the lifeblood of connectivity in this age. Through these silly viral pictures, we’re not only able to share laughs, but our own awareness of the human condition. It’s vital to combine those two: truth and humor. Truth—without humor—takes itself way too seriously. If it’s a negative truth, it leads to despair; if it’s positive, it leads to a kind of mania.
I’m from the meme generation—an older Millennial. These stupid pictures with text on them kind of capture the overall mindset we have. They’re Cynicism Lite, just like us. Some memes are downright depressing, others uplifting, but the vast majority fall somewhere in between.
And what makes them humanistic is that most of them are easy to relate to.
I’m the annoying FB friend who shares 500 memes each day. It’s better than me sharing obnoxiously academic Buddhist crap though, which was my previous habit.
The most beautiful aspect of memes is their shareability. Millions of people all over the world pass along the same memes, sharing that common thought, laugh, or inspiration. Unfortunately, it’s also the backbone of all these fake Buddha quotes.
There are some FB groups that seem entirely dedicated to coining half-baked spiritual aphorisms and passing them off as Buddha quotes to increase their reach. I’m not a purist by any means. You’ll never see me foaming at the mouth while raving about the “historical Buddha” but it still pisses me off a bit.
The easiest way to spot a fake Buddha quote is to use your catchiness meter. “Is this catchy? Yes. Well, then it’s probably not Buddha.” I’m sure several other historical (and not historical) figures have found themselves misquoted in memes as well. So, it’s important to not blindly trust (and share) things we read on the internet (Except me. You should blindly trust and share my blog).
There’s a dark side to memes, too. I’ve seen a few that propagate stereotypes, conspiracies, and regressive thinking in general. But they’re nowhere near as common as the benign, apolitical, darkly whimsical variety.
Memes fit right in with the zeitgeist. They’re to the point (unlike this blog post). People have less and less time to read or watch videos these days, so memes are a cheap and easy way to find some knowledge or entertainment.
If we want to understand humanity, all we really need to do is scroll through our newsfeeds. It’s all right there, spelled out in memes. The hurt, love, smiles, frowns, hope and apathy. It’s out in the open, crossing borders and finding footing in different cultures with different languages.
We speak in memes and emojis now. Sure, there are downsides to this, but it can’t be helped. The best thing we can do is adapt to it. Even poets are adapting by shortening their pieces to just a verse or two plastered onto a related background. Meme culture hasn’t killed poetry, it’s actually bringing it back into vogue.
I’ll never totally fit in with my culture because I like taking my time. I walk slow, talk slow, and try to ring as much from every article as I possibly can. But, that’s okay, because I share my generation’s mentality, and I don’t have to fit in with the world to enjoy it.