The power of memes has strengthened over the last few years through the growing number of ‘produsers’ participating in social media creating content that sparks conversation and can be distributed throughout media with its own social significance. Memes are images created with a picture and text, that can be applied to several different circumstances to provide meaning only to people who are ‘in the know’ or understand the inside joke. For example, to understand the satirical title of this blog you would have to be able to recognize the iconic reference of “You can’t sit with us” from the movie Mean Girls, a very popular movie of my generation, in which this line displays alienation and excluding others who don’t fit in. While the majority of the memes I encounter on sites such as Tumblr are satire or jokes…
…Kendzior argues that memes also appear to act as real reporting, or a satirical way to participate in parts of society that usually alienate–such as politics (2012). She argues that memes have altered campaign culture, and that the narratives of an election can often be endlessly repeated through memes as a summary of the campaign conversation. For example, the following are just a few of the memes that represent Mitt Romney’s campaign (or at least the way a large majority of the public interpreted it):
This is one of the most popular ways Mitt Romney is repetitively represented through memes on the internet. As mentioned above, most memes are a form of satire or sarcasm, however most young people speak fluent sarcasm, and young people are often the ones who are most excluded from politics. Whether it be from age restrictions, lack of resources, or the elevated language used in most elections, young people are alienated from the decision making process that results in policies and laws that affect them just as much as it affects every other person. Memes are accessible to anyone with access to internet, and simplify the main ideas of an election or at least people’s reactions. While most memes are inside jokes, Kendzior argues, “Memes do not distract so much from a serious conversation about the issues so much as affirm that a serious conversation about the issues is something we have long stopped having” (2012). Memes provide a way to circulate a different truth than what is being fed from the top-down media hierarchy. This is one very important reason why memes are such an important part of this new media culture. While they appear to be insignificant comics, memes still have the power to change ideas and connect people through these ideas.
A large part of meme culture is who is ‘in on the joke.’ Inclusiveness results in exclusiveness by definition, and I see one example of this on Tumblr quite frequently through the use of this meme:
This single meme is used to address a ‘noob’ on the internet, or someone who is stating redundant arguments or commentary on a social media platform. It is used for something as simple as someone using a social media site ‘incorrectly,’ like when grandmothers comment on Facebook and sign off with something such as “Great picture, Kailey. Hope you have a great day. Love you lots, Grandma.” Sure, it is a nice comment, but it is simply not how the site is used. A new social media development is #YesAllWomen which has been trending on twitter and getting a lot of attention on social media. This has stemmed from the shooting of women that was explained by their male shooters as ‘because they turned me down,’ and the hashtag is usually accompanied by a personal story of how they have experienced sexism. The redundant argument that has been accompanying this controversial topic is one of ‘not all men are like that‘ or ‘men experience sexism too,‘ and these statements have often been accompanied by the ‘you must be new’ meme or the following: