Why is the first response to any situation nowadays a meme?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good meme as much as the next Gen Z kid, but sometimes I think it goes a little too far.
I see a lot of political memes, which are what I like to think are the modern day versions of political cartoons that we study in history and government class. (I’m curious to see a day where memes are studied like historical documents as the new political cartoons. They are still political commentary as much as a cartoon.)
Let’s take the most current example of current event memes. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is sweeping through the globe, infecting and killing thousands. Back in January, I was seeing memes on Instagram and TikToks about the coronavirus as a distant object that was never going to affect any American. Unfortunately, we have a culture where we seem incapable of helping and giving any consideration unless it directly affects us. And now it has.
As I am writing this, there are almost 55,000 confirmed cases and 782 deaths. People have started to act like this is an apocalypse and the stores are going empty of water, toilet paper, and canned food because people are hoarding goods. Schools are closed, mine included in the Washington state closing of schools for the next six weeks.
While the US is still not the most affected country by the coronavirus, people are acting as if we are. Some of the panic and craziness that has been instilled seems way out of proportion, especially because we live in a country that has the resources for people to sustain themselves without taking from others, and I don’t think some people realize that. There are more memes posted to social media every day about the coronavirus and people still going out that this is not going to stop anytime soon. And some families and workers are extremely more affected than others because of a loss of job and income or have to put their lives at risk as a medical worker or first responder.
In situations like these, I think there is also this question of political correctness that I think comes out of meme culture, whether we were in a pandemic or not. How far is too far, and is it too sheltering to conform to being PC in the first place?
Is there a first-world country privilege to make a meme to laugh at before we make any substantial change or action to help?
Going back to January again, if you were anywhere on the internet in the first week or two, the biggest meme was the potential for World War III. It’s a daunting topic that has terrible repercussions if it were to happen. However, all I was seeing on social media were the memes and TikToks about the draft. What a lot of people failed to realize is that if another world war were to occur, it wouldn’t be on American soil. Our military is run by a person that would ensure that the first draw was in the Middle East and killing people that were not Americans for the betterment of our country, which in the long run is not. However, other sides of the story such as that are brushed off because it has no effect. There was never going to be a draft and there was never going to be a war in the US.
In the end, I think it’s all about the people that control the media and what is put in front of people’s faces everyday. If you’re a teenager, you are most likely just as obsessed with memes as the next person and trying to make them stay as relevant and as funny as possible. Then, relevancy comes with making sure that you won’t get “cancelled” or anything, which is where the political correctness comes in.
For now, the most we can do is be more considerate and of what you put online when making fun of current events. And as for our life in self-isolation, please stay home and social distance yourselves, and thanks for reading!