The inspiration for writing this blog post came to me while trying to have a conversation with my mother. Keyword: trying. It has become increasingly difficult for me to have conversations with members of previous generations. This is especially a problem seeing as my job mainly involves having to talk to elderly people. Luckily for me, a lot of older people just want you to listen and nod and smile to what they have to say. Now I’m not saying this to offend anyone: I don’t mean to imply that older people –people older than me and my age-group- have less knowledge or intelligence. I’m not that arrogant. I just mean that people who don’t belong to the millennial or gen z generations have less knowledge about one particular thing: meme culture.
All of us of course know memes; anyone who has ever spend time on the internet knows about memes. The neo-hieroglyphs of our time. Memes are incredibly fascinating to me, and that’s why I’ve chosen to write about them today. It is an entire language created solely for one purpose: humour. And it was not even intentionally created! This new language is just a collection of jokes, which sometimes have intentional purposes such as societal or political critiques, but which are all covered in a dose of often nihilistic humour. These jokes have then evolved through alteration and combination of any and all Internet users until an outside viewer who didn’t follow this line of change could never know what these images mean. They have become a sort of secret language: symbols which only can be translated by the most involved followers.
The example I would like to give you all today might already be known to you if you are as much of a fan of the memes as I am. The strangeness of this meme only struck me when I tried to explain it to my mom –here comes the part about the difficulty in our communication sometimes. To me this meme was completely obvious, since I have seen it countless times, but to her it seemed completely alien. Maybe you’ve already guessed it: the meme I’m talking about is the infamous Loss meme. The symbol shown here is a very stylized and symbolized version of it, more the core or the skeleton of it, as you will, but it can be applied in many different ways. Without knowing what this meme is about, this image will probably look odd, and it will hold no meaning. Maybe a symbol from some ancient society? Something you would find on an archaeological dig site perhaps? The symbol is actually derived from a comic which tried to make a serious statement, but tragically failed and therefore got mocked and made into a meme. I could explain everything about this meme to you, but it would probably be too long of an explanation for just a small blog post (if you really are curious you can simply Google its exact meaning).
Also the fact that you still don’t understand this meme supports my point. Meme culture has become something of a private language, only understood by those who invest in it (by spending countless hours on the internet like me). Many jokes and references I make are understood by my brothers, but go over the heads of my parents and even my sister, who is only ten years older than me. Conversations at my dinner table are therefore often filled with confusion on one end and laughter on the other. My mother thinks all memes are a bunch of childish nonsense, but I say that she doesn’t know what she’s missing. What a loss.
Memes as “The neo-hieroglyphs of our time”, I like that idea. Memes are an interesting output of internet culture. And I can relate to having to explain a meme to my mom, I just gave up trying to do so.