The Internet outdid itself yesterday in the matter of Valentine’s memes. Each year brings more and better memes–more sophistication, faster production, punchier and funnier jokes (especially that one where batman or someone is actually punching someone or other, that’s always funny).
If Self Care is the modern word I most loath, I think I’d have to say that Meme is word I most adore, with a very close second place for blogsplain.
Memes, more than any other visual form in this brave new world, bring people together. You may be feeling bitter animosity towards your friend, your neighbor, your Facebook frenemie. He (let’s call him a he because women never do this) may be posting long streams of accusatory and one sided political articles from news sources you don’t value, in fact you think they are completely wrong headed. But then that person, in the posting of a single well timed meme can be basically forgiven, at least for a while.
Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven. The best way to do that is to keep posting funny memes. Reconciling, clever, Funny Because They’re True, memes.
But the thing I love best about the word meme is that, in its cultural tropish sense, I can miss-apply it in every direction. I can use it for any person’s peculiarity that they might be obsessing over. And, perhaps most importantly, I can meme whole groups, because that way everyone knows what I’m talking about.
Reading the Bible, that’s my meme. It’s what I do. A bible reader, it’s who I am it’s who I am it’s who I am. But your meme might be Executive Orders, or Immigration, or Selfies, or Being An Internet Jerk, or The Church Year, or Art, or Poetry, or Theology, or Some Very Narrow Doctrinal Issue, or Homeschooling, or Dogs, or Bunnies In Wine Glasses, or Health, or Exercise, or Food Videos. I guess I’ll try not to list all the ways I’ve memed my friends.
People can be pegged, pinned down, shoved into the frame of a meme with their own words emblazoned across them. You can categorize them easily by meme. And groups too. Whole huge groups. Ideological or otherwise.
It’s great. It’s exactly what’s needed in this fractious time of Internet shouting. It can be hard to understand someone’s 140 character opinion, it may be exhausting to click on their blog and try to figure out what they’re talking about, it may be even too hard to wait for their YouTube channel to load and watch the whole nine minute clip. But if you can figure out their Meme, their essential point of view that they are always going to have, or that you think they’re always going to have, well, then, you win! #winning.
I also like using the word to refer to broad and complex cultural trends, like #blacklivesmatter and #makeamericagreatagain. Sloganeering and Meming pair really well together, like a mango and a small teaspoon of sour cream. The repetitious nature of all online discourse, of tracing out opinion pathways into nice comfortable deep tracks so that you can go down them without worrying about where your feet are going to land–that’s the best thing. I love that.
You think I’m talking about you? Sadly, no, I’m still talking about myself. I’m the memer–the one who memes. I’m the one who shoves people into their rectangular frames and applies words over the top–not too many words, just like five or something, if I’m generous maybe a whole sentence. I then know who they are in all their complexity. I don’t ever have to be startled.
Which, of course, ruins the whole point of a meme which is, in one single picture, to surprise, to show some true insight through humor, to overturn the other person’s disappointment and anger with a pouting baby waving his fist. I don’t always post a meme, but when I do it’s so that you’ll take me out of the frame that I have clicked for myself.
It’s the best word, besides being unusual to work over in the mouth. It’s slightly hard to say, it feels like a warm comforting bite of potato. It’s my Favorite English Word today.