Don’t you just love a good meme?
Same here. And, to be quite honest with you, I’m mostly on social media for the memes. Forget the social part of Facebook and Instagram.
But what if I told you scrolling through memes on your phone when you’re supposed to be doing something else is a form of socializing? In a way, memes are a unique way of communicating with one another that our generation has adopted. This sounds a little ridiculous, but memes, just like laughter and comedy, feel crucial to our coping with problems that might be a little darker.
Let me explain why.
Go back to that meme up above. It was funny, but it also sharply criticized the reality of inclusion (or lack thereof) in the fashion industry. That’s just what memes aim to do: express the ironies, absurdities, hilariousness, and exaggerations of reality. As we all know, the reality isn’t always good and happy, and memes are allowed freedom to express the darker more frustrating side without being overly morbid and depressing.
Another example that struck me are these memes about depression:
People with depression can painfully relate to these conversations while also finding the depictions of them amusing. It may make them feel less alone in this problem they have, that at least one person gets it. People without depression may also laugh at them, but they’re also learning what not to say to someone with depression in a lighthearted manner. For both groups, the meme seems to alleviate a little bit of the problem.
And no, I’m not saying memes are the answer to social justice and mental health issues of our time, but they can help facilitate dialogue.
A friend of mine who has depression sent me those memes and told me she found it hilarious, and I got to understand her world just a little more. If I was still confused about why one meme was funny or a certain question hurtful, this would give me the perfect chance to ask her and understand the problem more. The conversation that might otherwise be uncomfortable or that I’d be unsure of how to start would be naturally initiated by a set of memes.
It is this sharing of memes, tagging people in them or sending them over text, that allows you to creatively convey a message. And that message can be shallow like this:
Or, as I said, they can be memes about depression that let me better understand what others go through.
Or even the wholesome meme can express a deep love you have for someone that you’re not really sure how to put into words without sounding disingenuous. Kind of like a more authentic Hallmark card.
The anti-millennial argument that technology is ruining kids’ social skills and creativity these days is wrong when it comes to memes. Memes get at the very core of what it means to be human today, and a lot of creativity goes into making some of them. It utilizes faces, reactions, and text to carry forward messages in a more three-dimensional way.
Even further, meme pages can bring together communities. There are the ones for specific universities with jokes only people who go to your school can understand. It seems unnecessary, but communities can also be built amongst minorities, like the Muslim population.
A group called “Halal Memes for Jannah Minded Teens” helps gives Muslim millennials around the world a group to belong to, regardless of their background and heritage, and universal struggles to relate to through memes. It also allows for issues like racism within the Muslim community to be discussed.
And while there have been disagreements and comment arguments, for the most part, it has brought a group together that might sometimes feel divided. This could be through shared laughter over foot-in-sink memes or a Google form for donation requests reaching the massive audience the group has garnered.
Obviously, memes can be used for evil, just like any other platform, and I’m not encouraging everyone to scroll through Facebook for hours looking at them. But this meme phenomenon is an interesting response to a time when we are bombarded with hateful stories and fearful headlines.
Laughter is a form of healing, and memes give us a way to laugh at the absurdity of everything going or channeling our rage into something that can create a more positive impact.