Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Meme Apocalypse

I Can Has Cheezburger? 
While I was sleeping, I must have been dreaming, but I don't recall what I dreamt. When I woke, however, my first ridiculous thought was that our world is -- as it seems to me -- suddenly awash in memes. It is a meme apocalypse! There is a madness for memes that has taken over the internet, restaurants, television and even people.

I'm used to years of people saying "LOL" as though it were a word on its own. What took me by surprise, though, was the relentless nature of memes and the expectation that everyone else will enjoy this cat asking to "has cheezburger" as much as I do. On the one hand, it is a certain sort of genius to see the value in the everyday made humorous. This is what makes life lovely. But when that value becomes monetary, what then? There's something almost sinister about it ...

Everything has the potential, be it cute, funny, a real groaner, or a train wreck, to be posted to everyone's Facebook or Pinterest wall, twitter feed, Google circle, dropbox, or email. All at the same time, no less. I've made an effort to minimize this from my author page. I'd like my communication with friends of my writing to be from me, to reflect my work and my ponderings, not Cheez or Tofuburger's; nor, (as much as I like him and would like to see his musical) George Takei.

I suspect that the madness for memes is really due to our need for community in a world of cityscapes and nameless crowds. "Hey, this is funny, check it out," gives us a sense of belonging in an internet world of "friends" who are often total strangers. I would be willing to bet a bag of pistachios that there is already a psych major who has written a paper on this need and the subsequent poor provision of the internet to fill the gap. That's a rabbit hole I don't want to jump down today. We sit before our glowing monitors - at all ages - and laugh alone, cry alone and live alone. Can we really call that living?

We are built for human interaction, not fingers to keyboard. The need to know that We Are Not Alone stems from the repeated experiment of isolation we engage in daily behind our computers. We are made to connect with one another through touch and word, laughter and sorrow. Yes, my chosen career is all about trying to evoke emotion in people through words on a page, literal or electronic. The irony is not lost on me. Still, I would not want people to live inside my writing all the time. Enjoy and share and do things in person, without glass walls between real people.

We ache, I believe, for the corporate body of family that too busy, too singular living does not provide today. I am also certain that the rugged individualism we have cultivated over the decades with images of the lone, cigarette smoking cowboy, the leather draped greaser, the parking meter breaking drunkard with nothing better to do with his life and the dark, brooding, anti-hero-loner-types who inexplicably draw the female lead in bad vampire movies does *not* supply the concept of home with proper nutrients. We have built a society where the secure home life necessary for children to thrive is not merely anemic, it is altogether bloodless. All too often our progeny are left to fend for themselves. Our cities are cultivated islands raising Lord of the Flies children. Even that decade of parents stumbling in the door at the end of a far too long day with fast food tucked under one arm is far homier than what happens now when children, if they go to school at all, catch the bus alone. They return with  no way to decompress from the pressures of school to cold or microwaved meals (if they eat at all) and to sleep in a parentless environment because mom or dad has to work all night to pay the rent.

We need a strong, available family. We need to stop encouraging people to be rugged individuals but to look for long lasting bonds, bonds of marriage and parents who are involved in raising their children. I am not saying memes are bad. I think memes are often amusing, even thought provoking. But as funny and prone to give pause as they may be, they are a symptom of the lack of the cohesive family unit in modern society.

The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus
That is the apocalypse I see, not zombies (though you know if you've read my blog that I am a fan of The Walking Dead and other ZA stuff), not another world war, but the breakdown of the family which has led us to the wholesale slaughter of children and the dehumanizing of the aged. Memes are a warning sign of greater division that is to come.

Or ... I just haven't had enough sleep.

Do you think I'm crazy? Is something so simple indicative of a deeper loss of community? I'd love to have a discussion right here and to hear what you think!


  1. How can I ever use "LOL" again? That, too, seems a symptom of abbreviated lives. I am guilty of a lack of face-to-face interaction. I have rationalizations, justifications, and a laundry list of explanations, but you speak truth, my friend. What is really crazy (and reduces you to "slightly eccentric") is the pervasive sense of entitlement, the selfishness that prompts people to spend hours sharing memes instead of nurturing their families or doing something productive, and the lack of logic that has people teaching by terrible example and then becoming angry and violent when the "students" copy them. Coincidentally, just the other day I had a conversation with my husband in which I suggested that maybe "this day and age" IS the zombie apocalypse.

    Great minds, and all that. ("While they last," she said with a petty LOL.)

  2. In the context of being online and having a conversation, "LOL" seems appropriate to me, but I do wonder: how honest are we? When we type "LOL" are we really laughing out loud?

    In my heavy role-play years, I typed between colons many emotions I was really feeling, but I am absolutely certain I never "ROFL" or "rolls/ed on the floor laughing" let alone laughing off certain portions of my anatomy. The very nature of the online world lends to the lie and the anonymity of it, I believe, increases the distance between us and others. If we are not honest about ourselves, how can we truly have a "community" online. But that is the favored four syllable word. "Group" has no heart.

    I am pleased to be only "slightly eccentric" but saddened that it takes such a horror perpetrated on today's children to put me there. The breakdown of the family, the protection and guidance of a strong, loving father, the fierce dedication of a nurturing, loving mother cannot be replaced by televisions, video games, or computer screens and online chat rooms.

    Isolation is a plague. Hours in front of our glowing idols talking to people we may, in all likelihood, never meet robs us of the nutrients for lasting, loving relationships.

    I have heard many people postulate that the "end times" are coming. That the "thousand years" of suffering is far off, that the "rapture" will save the faithful from suffering. I do not believe those things. I agree with you: they are already here. Only those who already live and work in heaven will avoid this malnutrition of the soul. But there is hope! I believe a loving, nurturing God provided that hope in Christ AND that the victory over the apocalypse is already won. Therefore, what remains to be done is love one another, in person, with helping hands and willing hearts until the King returns.

    Come swiftly, Lord Jesus!