Friday, April 1, 2022

Insight: There's no 'I' in meme

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

I must admit that I’m not much of one for social media memes. It’s hard for me to fathom that someone collects and saves a file of snappy comebacks for social media posts, ready and waiting for the just the precise moment to unleash it upon the world.

You’ve all seen them, the clapping hands after a witty social media post or comment: the crying baby after a sad event, a clip of Austin Powers saying over and over “Yeah Baby” for something you agree with, or the “Keep Calm and (fill in the blank)” retort for a post alerting the public about a massive snowstorm headed in your direction.

Whether it be the smiling face of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka dispensing some condescending advice, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sitting in the cold while wearing his mittens at the 2021 presidential inauguration or Jim Carey as “The Grinch” it boggles the mind how pervasive meme-use has become as a way of communicating feelings and emotions with a simple upload.

For those living under a rock, what exactly is a meme? As defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s 2022 edition, a meme is “an amusing or interesting item such as a captioned picture or video or genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media.”

Research shows that long before the inception of the internet, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins of England coined the term “meme” in a 1976 book called “The Selfish Gene.” Dawkins described a meme as a future “unit of cultural transmission” and over the decades since, the term “meme” has evolved into the social media phenomenon we all know today.

I also lump large colored text-filled blocks or questions I see on social media as “memes.” These would include such items as “Date Yourself By Listing a Concert You’ve Attended” or “How Many Times Have You Sneezed In Your Lifetime.”

For me personally, I always try to stay away from responding on social media from memes that ask questions, fearful that some identity thief may be lurking out there on social media and prepared to pounce on the fact that I was a student in the fifth-grade class of Mrs. Wahl at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Brighton, New York in 1963 or that I went to the Edgar Winter Group concert featuring opening act Bad Company at the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the evening of Aug. 8, 1974. The only reason I can recall that exact date was because while I was standing and waiting in line to get into the concert with my friends, it was announced that U.S. President Richard M. Nixon had said he would resign from office the next day.

Don’t get me wrong, I do admire the ingenuity and creativity that some meme posters exhibit. I’ve been dazzled by how many different situations that the “Most Interesting Man in the World” from the Dos Equis beer commercials can show up in a meme and how adaptable or humorous that grumpy cats or Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs can be when individuals are commenting on a Twitter post about rising energy costs for Americans.

Everything from the grandma that fell down the stairs carrying a basket of laundry from those annoying Life Alert television commercials to Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, and Flavor Flav have been turned into popular memes. There are dancing babies, Keanu Reeves, Jack Nicholson, Tom Brady, the Broadway cast of “Hamilton” and I’ve seen singer Chris Daughtry compared to Christopher Lloyd’s Uncle Fester in the remake of “The Addams Family” film.

The world of memes only seems to be limited by imagination. You’ll find Yoda from “Star Wars,” Homer Simpson from “The Simpsons” television show or Kim Kardashian cajoling each of us to work harder. There are memes about the post office, babysitting, grocery shopping or birthday celebrations and a new one began circulating in the moments following the televised 2022 Academy Awards infamous Will Smith slap of Chris Rock.

I wouldn’t even begin to guess where to stash a supply of witty memes on my iPhone to quickly respond to an interesting Instagram post and I certainly don’t keep any prepared memes handy for those who may post satirical comments when I post this column on social media each week.

I am clueless as to how to make a meme and at my age, I can’t remember what I may have had for dinner two nights ago, let alone recalling where I keep the file for a particular meme to fit a comment about an outrageous statement a friend may make and post on Facebook three weeks from now.

My appreciation for memes is minimal, except when I notice that someone has used a Mr. T from the “A-Team” one or created one with anything related to Ted Lasso. Memes using characters from “The Muppet Show” and Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy are sure to grab my attention.

Any of my friends reading this column on social media may suppose my thoughts on memes are a bit surprising. I do read their memes, but for me, there’s no “I” in meme. <

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