What Memes Mean: What We All Think We Do…

Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.

We are all victims, generators, and products of perspective. We bring a host of preconceived notions and assumed truths to all of life, including into our relationships with others — ideas about ourselves, people, and the world that affect the way we view and treat each other. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just an unavoidable thing. We can’t function in reality without some type of a priori, it’s impossible to do. But whether our assumption is positive or negative, good or bad, we’re all stuck in skin and confined to conjecture, doing the best we can to try to understand each other, hopefully well enough to feel connected to someone somewhere and/or “just get by.”

Maybe it’s not as dramatic as all that (maybe), but we certainly all find ourselves feeling misunderstood quite often. It’s here that a recent meme picks up, the one that swept social media and inundated your Facebook and Twitter timelines in the past couple of weeks, the one with the black background and one square picture per “what” to elucidate the assumptions of others (and, briefly, yourself)…

What my friends think I do…

What my mom thinks I do…

What I think I do…

What society thinks I do…

What I really do…

Everyone seemed to find themselves in this meme. It evolved quickly and relentlessly. Most versions were specifically concerned with vocation, one of the main ways adults define themselves. There are now jpegs lamenting the (evidently) ill-understood lives of photographers, seminary students, professional artists, librarians, musicians, and countless other fields. Generally they all seem to say: “My friends think I party, my parents think I play, society thinks I’m weird, I think I’m cool, but I really just sit at a desk behind a computer all day.”

But, the “what I really do” meme (like most of our assumptions of misunderstanding) got a little whiny. Do your friends or parents really not understand you? Do they, perhaps, understand you a little better than you’d like? Is their criticism or commentary something you avoid by tacking together gimmicky joke posts in MS Paint instead of taking it, at the very least, into consideration? Does society, honestly, have at least some point in its assumptions and preconceptions of you, something you should at least give ear to and analyze for yourself? This is the problem of living in a world of conjecture — we fall victim to our own conjectures as well — perhaps our assumptions that we are not understood by others are not entirely true. Each of us is a friend, a family member, and a member of society — we are each in the jpeg, not just chuckling at it.

But feelings of misunderstanding, though they should be analyzed, are often legitimate. The biblical promise that we will “know even as we are fully known” has always resounded deeply with me, and this meme points to the fact that it resounds deeply in all of us. We feel misunderstood, we deeply desire to be “known,” and we desperately want to “know.” This is one of the problems of the Fall — this disconnect with others and the world — and only something that the coming Kingdom of the all-knowing God can fix .

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  • http://thelivingrice.blogspot.com Jason Bruce

    Excellent article! What God thinks about us is more important.