My name is Austin, and I am a memer.
Memes have been getting a bad rap as of late. From the alt-right movement taking over the Internet’s most famous frog to memes sent around with the intention of causing harm, it might be hard to see any kind of value.
However, memes are more than a tool meant to degrade people — they were created for humor and, more recently, to comment on contemporary issues. They are a reflection of our ever-changing youth culture, spreading around all forms of media for their five minutes of fame before quickly dying out.
A meme is defined in the dictionary as “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, especially imitation.” By definition, they are meant to be shared to bring people together through satire and irony. They can be poignant, using an image rather than words to poke fun at events, institutions and the government.
Memes were originally spread as inside jokes on websites like 4chan and Reddit. If you missed the original post and didn’t get the meaning, it might have taken a while to figure out what was going on. Soon, more mainstream outlets like Facebook caught on to these jokes, making the original sites meme hubs.
Creating memes and ditching them after they gained popularity became the norm. Memes exploded into popular culture, infecting social media and every form of entertainment. When brands want to attract a younger audience, advertisers use memes to try and lure people in. The marketing department should make a class — what is marketing other than glorified memes?
My weekends would not be complete without sitting down on the couch and watching meme compilations on YouTube with my roommates. After a long week of studying for tests and general craziness, it is nice to kick back and laugh over videos, something that might seem insane to anyone over 30.
The general consensus is that memers are people who do not leave their basements and keep their eyes glued to a computer screen. In reality, most are average, fully-functioning people.
When I tell people that I am a real-life memer, they are often taken aback, shocked even, that the person who wrote an article about Pokémon Go would actually like memes. I’m joined by a collection of these fully-functioning memers who see the hilarity in everyday situations and are artistically compelled to make a statement, usually via picture with text.
Memes making fun of Lehigh culture have been spreading around social media. While some have to do with serious topics such as increased tensions between police and students, most point out the ridiculousness of minor problems like the crowding at Lower Cort around noon or how IBE students can’t seem to talk about anything except their program.
One person even started a Facebook event inviting students to gather on the UC front lawn next week and run like Naruto in the name of memes.
These memes, as well as countless others, are not inherently bad. They are a form of artistic expression that unites communities by satirizing issues and common views. What other form of media can capture the complexity and difficulty of healthcare with a picture of a cat?
The prevalence of memes as a new cultural norm came from the mass followings different personalities have on social media. My personal favorites, Youtubers Ethan and Hila Klein of H3H3 productions, started meme-ing later than others and prevailed by embodying the key aspects of a good meme: being funny while providing a viewpoint.
More insidious movements and perpetrators of hate speech don’t seem to realize that memes have become the mainstream and are here to stay.
Once a meme is adopted into the general public, it’s used for any purpose someone can think of. They will be edited, remixed, altered and shared throughout the Internet. Memes cannot be associated with one group, nor can people stop the spread of memes.
Quality memes cannot and will not go to waste because of what one group has used it for. We must take it upon ourselves to turn a “hate” meme into one with a more positive message. If all else fails, the meme will probably die out by the next day anyway.
Stay true to yourself. Don’t let your memes be dreams.
Austin Katz, ’19, is an associate lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]