Memes are perfect for the extremely limited things they can do.
Or as my Da usedta say, prolly swiping from mid-20th century comedian Benny Youngman Berle, they’re in pretty good shape for the shape they’re in.
If they weren’t limited they wouldn’t be easy and if they weren’t easy they wouldn’t be common and as they are both easy and common let us affirm the consequent and say they’re also limited.
They can do one or more of a few things and usually just one:
- bumper stickery — ‘gladda meetchya’ quick joke rabbit pellets
- cuteness — generally benign, but there is a problem with cute
- political — literally stupidest, least welcome, mostly offensive
- repurposed — and repeated (Willy Wonka, McKayla Maroney)
- aphoristic — my preference to give and receive; possibly useful
Have heard it said memes are political compass tests only, unedifying, mere novelty, and coincident with tooth decay. One of those is made up but cd be harder than you think to pick which. The knock seemed to be they are not academic papers, which is, to be sure, true.
I prefer as I say the aphoristic — memes as visual aphorisms — and at first I wanted to say that those types are better in that form and I think those are the most interesting but this is because I want to see stuff from 87 diff angles and an aphorism helps me do that.
Aphorisms are more illustration than explanation (and then you have the other limitations of the meme — not lease of which are the other uses they can be put to, which can besmirch this highest and best use). Meme as a visual aphorism encapsulates a thing or moment but does not, mainly in the mathematical sense but also in an explanatory one, comprehend it. It’s a way of succinctly capturing some aspect but brevity a’course leaves a lot out.
The specific meme that brought these comments out was this one — — and the discussion that ensued got a bit boggy on whether this was a full version of the truth of the matter (it isn’t) and whether that’s a bad thing about memes (sorta, but only if you don’t accept ‘em for what they are, on which, q.v. the bulleted list above).
So, OK, yes. They’re highly limited. They’re memes.
Welcome to Manhattan.
The second key to memes — after accepting their limitations, as we do with other things we enjoy like parents and money and life — is whether one sees them as a conversation starter or ender.
The political ones are supposed to be an ender. The bumper stickers and cutesies are really neither but certainly no conversation is sought or expected, except possibly a bit down the line with the bumper stickers where one is allowed to ask, so what’s up with that knife forge your building in the garage? The cute ones just get an LOL as if this must said. Repurposed ones eventually become clichés and die out … replaced by others … which then die out … to be replaced by … OK? If we’re to hate those let’s start with written clichés as well and go postal on all of ‘em.
Memes as conversation starters are as good as any other and for the other uses are on our interweb social media world simply the toll we pay to ride the information superhighway.
So … the conversations.
Well, those carry their own freighted weight and, as with discussions per se
can reveal cracks in our connectivity and that‘s not a 5G issue. Cracks can become fissures can become fractures or they can let the light in
. Fractures can do that too, even
Memes can themselves be connective but sometimes they are somewhere in the Venn dealio of a group monthly birthday cake at the job
, bumping carts at Costco, and standing in line at the post office. The first you get rooked or don’t want store-bought icing not even for people one is vaguely aware of; the second you’re something like together but yeah it’d be good if everyone knew how to do it as well as you; the third, you’re all in it together but no one is having fun.
Then, too, we often send memes to people we already know — rendering all except the conversational aphoristic one moot … and it can still go wrong because if we know the person or hope they know us or at least what we are meaning here — for instance that the 7 Deadly Sins meme is about telling a story not writing a technical manual, may the latter’s tribe, or at least it’s online equivalent, increase, when the lovely red Kitchen-Aid breaks down or something goes wrong with the company’s content management system.
And telling only part of a story at that.
But fissure king-making and -toppling here can make for disconnect or at best irrelevance as well, and this does happen. If we know these folk we want to interact deeply or at least want to want to and memes might not be an way to go on that goal, swell as they can be.
It cd be that two Imagi Dei discussing the nature of deadly sin (the meme) and current cultural habit (the meme sending) seems axiomatically good and perhaps it even is.
But solo tangos suck.
Image: Wikimedia Commons by King of Hearts