What Memes Mean: Rebecca Black And Pulse-Checking

I’m not a physician nor the son of a physician, but it’s my understanding that checking a person’s pulse gives doctors and nurses a sort of “quick and dirty” look at a person’s overall health.  Obviously there are more tests that need to be done after a minor touch of the wrist, but if something’s wrong there, something’s probably wrong everywhere.

The constant barrage of internet memes that we plugged-in post-moderns have at our daily disposal offer us a great opportunity to check the pulse of our culture.  Trying to define the idea of meme briefly (it’s a bit difficult to do), “memes” are the little pieces of culture that we pass from person to person.  On the web, these tidbits typically hit us in the form of sound bites, jpegs, or video clips that go viral, gaining momentum and evolving along the way as they’re passed on via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (?), etc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUntx0pe_qI

What do we mean by “pulse check”?  Take, for example, the Rebecca Black “Friday” debacle.  The song was deliciously funny in its 3-minute awfulness. But (and I hate to be “that guy”) don’t you feel a tinge bad for the poor girl?  Using this meme as a pulse check for our culture, it is apparent that we can be pretty mean spirited and judgmental, seem to care little for the feelings of others when enough of us is laughing, and have no problem bullying those with even the best intentions.  From the insight this meme gives us, our “idiot culture” seems to be eroding into a “jerk culture” as well.

Memes can tell us what our culture finds funny, entertaining, encouraging, meaningful, and relevant.  They can tell us a lot about the culture’s values, interests, and dark desires as well.  Therefore, as Christians, the meme is a great way to take a deeper look at ourselves and see how much we are mirroring the world instead of standing apart from it, or maybe a better way to speak to our culture.  This column will be a weekly pulse check of this type, vis-a-vis the exploration of these cultural tidbits.

So, the first question: If you had to sum up what internet memes as a whole tell us about our culture in a “quick and dirty” pulse check, what do you think they are saying?

Also, in the spirit of collegiality and mutual edification, this link should further elucidate some of these themes, perhaps in a more direct and understandable way… 

About Kirk Bozeman
  • http://contemplatingthecosmos.wordpress.com Christopher Hutton

    Truthfully, I was a little critical of the Rebecca Black video when it came out. That’s probably because it’s quality was a little low. But then again, the girl only wanted to make a fun video, and it wasn’t even meant to get out online. So, my personal choice to judge was pre-disposed. So, then, how do you suggest Christians react? Should we see it as a fun thing for her, but also note it’s shortcomings? Should we just see it as fun? Or is there some other response we should give?

  • Kirk Bozeman

    Ah — that’s next week… Briefly, I think our reaction should be exactly what you are saying here, “This is bad art.” I probably went a tad overboard to make a point, mostly trying to say that a lot of criticism online is much more a form of bullying than something thoughtful. I think criticizing thoughtfully and “kindly” (as far as it’s possible) is the Christian response. That’s me.


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