Normally we write about gaming or movies, or comic books with a bit of humor (we hope) and try to talk about things that are of interest to gamers like us. Today we’re going to get a little serious though. Internet culture is closely tied to everything we love. We read about movies online, play games online, buy and study comics online and so on. The internet has become an integral part of our lives and everything we do. Because of this we are exposed to a lot of garbage, intolerance, ignorance and just plain fail. One of the most pervasive of these flaws is the meme.
A meme is defined as “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” One of the most commonly recognized memes are what you see to the left. A picture with a few lines of text that attempt to be clever, funny or poignant. Oftentimes they are just intolerant, inaccurate, hypocritical or just plain lies. They are similar to political cartoons, in that they take a caricature of an issue, generalize it in a couple of lines, and try to make it funny. Some of these memes are even like political cartoons in that they are meant to be funny. Unlike political cartoons, almost anyone can create them however, which means one can never be sure of the real intent of the meme.
The other problem that comes with these is delivery. Years ago a political cartoon was accompanied by the journalistic integrity of the paper it was published in. These little gems of fail are delivered all by themselves, usually as a picture on a black screen or a share on some social media site. No buffer of honesty to measure against, just what you see. People process it and then do one of a few things. Some look at it and know right away it’s bunk and they dismiss. Others hit the share button as fast as their cursor will move. A small group will actually look it up to see if it’s true or not. Even if these were published in papers today, we’ve long since moved away from any sort of journalistic integrity so they’d be just another puddle in the morass that is biased media.
That is exactly why these things irritate me. We are raising a generation of people right now who get their news from social media, the internet, and their friends. They don’t watch the news or read papers because they know it’s garbage. They are inundated with junk like this every day, and they are trying to develop filters to know what’s B.S. and what’s not. We, as adults, are just as guilty, if not more so, of spreading ignorance when we share, or like, or link, or even give credit to lies and misinformation. You may say, “But, Xamot you are taking these things way too seriously.” Really?
Take a look at this story. The Daily Currant, a known parody site much like The Onion, runs an article about how Radio Host Glenn Beck made a 911 phone call about having eaten a pizza made by Muslims and believes he was poisoned. Shortly after that post social media lit up with attacks against Beck based on the falsehoods in the obviously satirical article. You can read some of the comments here. How many times has China or North Korea taken an article by The Onion seriously? These people took these articles to heart and reacted to them, some in quite ugly ways. I know everyone’s seen one of these memes come up on their own social site and read everyone’s reactions, amazed that people can be so ugly to each other. How much worse is it when the words they are arguing over aren’t even true?
Frankly, many people are just trusting, or lazy, or simply don’t care. Some like to stir up crap and others just go with whatever. I hope that as information, and misinformation, becomes easier and easier to be exposed to we evolve into smarter readers, sharers, and debaters. We need to take the few seconds to Google that headline, or that meme. Look up that issue and see if that humorous little quip is just innocent satire, or malicious lie. It’s up to use, those who are on the internet all the time, to be the most active about this. I know many of you are like me, on the internet with several tabs open, doing several things at once. Hells I’m play9ing Battlefield right now, working on this post while I wait to respawn or during lulls in the action. I know you have the time, before you comment on that Facebook post your buddy made, to make sure his meme isn’t just more idiocy.
Finally, just out of curiosity, how many people looked up that meme I posted at the top of the article? Did you check out the facts or did you just copy and paste it into your Twitter feed? I’m sure most noticed, and hopefully everyone realized, it’s made up. Entirely fake. It’s quite easy to make a meme of whatever you want, so keep that in mind before you share yours. Just because it sounds real, or seems believable, does not mean it is so. Let’s try to raise a generation of thinkers, readers, and skeptics, not sheep.