It wouldn’t be unsafe to say that our generation is the generation of memes. We see a nice photo on the internet depicting certain thought, we screenshot it. We capture the photo of popular and unknown people and edit them, add some words we think captured their appearance on the photo and post it online. It is usually a source of fun. The face of celebrities like the famous ex-basketball star, Michael Jordan, has been used in so many memes and they always evoke laugher, shares and likes. Memes done with his photos have come to be identified as ‘Crying Jordan’. Presidents too have not been left out as photos of American President, Donald Trump, Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, South African President, Jacob Zuma, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, etc, have been supplied as response to posts and threads on the social media. We’ve even gone as far as creating pages on social media for ‘Robert Mugabe Quotes’, ‘Jacob Zuma Quotes’, where we post real and imagined quotes from them and accompany each quote with a photo that captures the word. We are a generation of memes.
Facebook pages like ‘Sarcasm’, with millions of subscribers, makes use of memes in passing so many messages. There are also pages like Correct Bro, Mugu, African Bro, Humor Meets Comics, Tasteless Gentlemen, etc, that deal in this new level of sarcasm. It is said that a picture is worth more than a thousand words and a meme, in one second, cracks jokes that will take a good comedian five minutes to conclude. Whoever introduced memes to our social life deserves some kudos. These days, there are clothes that turn its wearer into a walkng meme. Now, clothes with the words: “No Job, No Responsibility, Retired”, ” Who Am I”, “Please Send Nudes”, written boldly on them, are no longer seen as weird or worrisome. We are the official meme generation and we don’t break our codes. We don’t fail to adore a good meme when we see one and we are not stingy. We share with everyone on our page so the laughter can go round. This is great and wonderful. Love should go round the world to help us all.
Recently, I have been thinking:
What if some of these memes we use insult the memory and condition of the people in the photo?
Is it not insensitive to use the photo of a man who died in a refugee camp to respond to a person and evoke laughter?
How much do we know about some of the photos we edit into memes and share on the social media and save on our phones?
What if the photo we are using as meme to respond a person’s comment to us is that of a dying little child? Are we not being insensitive?
Do we have to crosscheck every photo on the internet before we convert it to a meme?
Should we like such memes because they make us laugh? When we do that, do we also share in the poster’s insensitivity?
I thought about the medium through which they are relayed. I wondered if Facebook or other social platforms see it like that and what their response would be like. Assuming a photo of Mark Zuckerberg, mourning the loss of a good friend, was used by a person involved in an online fight, what will the response be like?
In Hitler’s Germany, their existed the Nazi Salute, a method of greeting in Germany at the time, a symbol showing honour and reverence to their Fuhrer, Hitler, and reverence to Germany. Because Hitler’s Germany oppressed a lot of person’s, from the Jews to so many other races, when he was defeated, everything that was associated with him was discarded. Some time in 2008, the French football superstar, Nicolas Anelka, was banned for celebrating a goal by making the Quenelle Gesture, a gesture defined as the inverted form of the Nazi Salute. He was tortured and roasted on the media, on the streets and it even affected his career as a player. He was charged 80,000 Euros and banned for five games. All his arguments and defense couldn’t pacify anyone. Because the Nazi Salute was associated with a character and time considered evil, celebrating in such manner became a form of association with such character. Because we know that what transpired under Hitler wasn’t favorable for the unity and survival of the human race, we outlawed it and all further show of sympathy to his cause, in any form or guise, became antagonistic to the unity and survival of the human race. Because we know that identifying, whether in our uniforms, actions or words, with someone who mistreated a fellow human being, knowingly or unknowingly, is an insult to the memory of the person and shatter the cord that bind the human race, we discourage it.
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How do you respond to a meme, with the picture of a crying man(whose house was sunk in water), a weeping monkey(whose child died), a limping or paralysed young girl or boy(who survived an accident), a woman on black clothes rolling on the floor(whose husband died), an orphan who was captured roaming on the street or a weeping girl with reasons unknown, posted to make a point that doesn’t empathize with the photos in question? If we identify with a group by the images, words and actions we take when we post memes, why do we still go ahead and post memes with images of tortured people and some others we don’t understand in the name of entertainment? You know what I think? I think we are wonderful creatures with many nice people who don’t annoy people willingly. I think if we knew that a thing hurts another person, there is a large proportion of us who will go a long way to eliminate it. I think that if we take our time, sit quietly, reason the impact of these images(with a thousand impressions) on our minds and those whose misfortunes we turned to memes, we will do great work in making sure we hurt them no more. We will crosscheck every meme that comes our way.
So, I am making an appeal to everyone reading this to help propagate the message. My position is not that memes should cease to exist, that a ban be placed on their use, or that we shouldn’t laugh at what we find funny, but that we should investigate the source of every meme we support with likes, shares and other incentives. I am appealing that those things we find funny and entertaining shouldn’t be sourced from someone’s misfortune. We are too creative and intelligent as a race to prefer the happiness from cries and pains coming from the hospital and graveyards. I am appealing that we stop the use of faces of suffering families and people of Aleppo, Maiduguri, New York, Haiti, Manila and Mosul in making a point, in eliciting laughter, in clapping back. Each insensitive meme we post on a page is a step closer to the institutionalization of human brutality we are trying to curb. Each insensitive meme we post erodes further our collective human empathy and drags our value for human life downwards. Dear reader, are the memes you use also insensitive?