by Gaurav Ojha
From everything special to specific, these days there is always a meme ready for its dissemination in different social networking sites with a dramatically funny tagline dangled on an image or animation that is completely out of context to its original representation. Just scroll through different social networking sites after any important event, you will get my point, how things get interpreted, misinterpreted, misinformed, and muddled up in the memes. Inside Meme everything is just another joke, even if we want to take things seriously, we don’t because we don’t care. As Evolutionary biologist and author, Richard Dawkins describes memes as cultural ideas that express, spread and repeat themselves across society. For the millions of social media users, abusers and followers, memes carry forward cultural ideas and standards of our thinking we collectively ascribe to all those exciting things happening around us and memes reflect our collective perceptions, prejudices, values, failures regarding mismanaged, inadequately realized, misinterpreted and paradoxical political, social and cultural themes.
Besides, ideas disseminated through memes makes us feel that for so many of our social and political issues, events and situations, we are only helpless creatures, spectators and bystanders, condemned to making memes, enjoying them passionately and sharing them. As we stand before this messed up, corrupt, unfair and uncaring system, all we can do is observe a meme and laugh at our helplessness, and indeed nobody cares about us, we are not politicians, we have nothing to do with this mess, but to satisfy our need for entertainment, humor, shallow criticisms and senseless curiosity, we want memes to find enjoyment in those situations and events which we are beyond our control, for which we have nothing else to do.
Moreover, memes give us a sense of self-realization and self-awareness into something we have already accepted, it may be our prejudices, ignorance, unjustified opinions, outdated cultural ideas, superstitions, and biases, but it sparks our mind, because memes think and speak just like us, it’s our thought we haven’t been able to express, hence we can’t not resist sharing, commenting or liking. Besides, when a statement, claim, or a poetic verse in a meme, matches with your own thought you realize that every one of us is thinking and feeling alike and everybody hurts the same. Memes are reactive thinking. Most often with memes, we end up confirming social biases, ignorance, chauvinistic judgments, and anti-feminist evaluations and prejudice that need to be challenged and critically evaluated rather than mindlessly shared and accepted. Therefore, memes have also become a medium for the replication of harmful and dangerous ideas that create social disharmony and cultural conflicts, and also undermine social progress and tolerance. As we lazily go on enjoying and sharing memes we forget that most of political memes are manufactured for the directly involved vested interests of different groups and parties. Memes are used for manipulating our thinking and manufacturing consent.
Furthermore, memes are artistic expressions of postmodern society; where everything is just a mere interpretation, relativism, copy/pasting and subjective expression, without any standard for truth, objective reality or standard value judgment. Everything to every other thing can be reduced into Memes, from politicians, artists, students, Tiktok celebrities, serious philosophers and scientists to even bridges, roads, stones, hills and trees, all have found their undignified space in different memes. Shakespeare indeed has lots of memes, so has Albert Einstein, and they have only become a face for the Memes without ideas of their own and this is indeed how we like to understand them, from the perspective we are comfortable with. We don’t care for real Shakespeare, many people of this generation may have only heard of him without having read any of his works, but his memes are popular for what is never said. With Memes, we don’t care for original sources or authentic content, all we need is entertainment as a coping mechanism in this already messed up existence, where life is utterly uncertain, complex, and unpredictable, and the world that is too difficult to make any sense of and understand.
However, the problem with memes is that we almost forget the difference between what is crucial and things that are utterly trivial, in between something serious and not so serious, hence with memes everything becomes a matter of just another interpretation, assumption, and opinion, and we end up tolerating so many abusive, undermining, shameful and rather offensive contents in the Memes. Therefore, even as we enjoy funny memes, it is important to keep our critical thinking faculties active and open. Memes tell us that everything is a joke, it’s absurd, take it easy, no need to think for yourself, we know how you like to think, why worry for others, don’t get involved and you will only get your hands dirty, sit back and enjoy your memes. But, let us realize that simply sharing and liking memes are not the ways for recovery, progress, change or transformation, memes are only for that moment, they won’t resolve anything and take you somewhere.
About the Author:
Gaurav Ojha is a writer from Kathmandu, Nepal. He works have appeared in Indian Periodical.