Memes are something that have been around since the dawn of the world wide web. We’ve seen memes evolve from a fist pumping baby with top text saying “when you eat spaghetti” and bottom text saying “without getting any sauce on your shirt” to the super creative, limitless memes of the 10’s. The argument could easily be made that memes became a vehicle to push comedic boundaries far beyond anything you could dream of doing on a 2010’s stand-up stage.
The end result was an era where memes were getting popular enough to the point where everyone under 30 was following meme pages by 2016. Things that were taboo to joke about – like 9/11 – were suddenly on the table. Memes became a way for people to truly just laugh at what they wanted to laugh at without being policed by the politically correct Gestapo and “comedians” who think they control what can and can’t be joked about. Memes were a huge part of the counter-culture of the latter part of the decade, a counter-culture that is still ongoing.
Sadly though, memes have now become mainstream and hijacked by corporations, like all good things. Everybody and their mother posts low effort memes in search of clout. Are there still diamonds in the rough? Absolutely. The best memes are probably going to come from nameless, anime profile pictures who aren’t seeking credit for their work. Their memes get harvested by mainstream meme-stealing accounts such as @TheFatJewish on Instagram; their names simply cropped out while their memes are viewed by millions.
That’s what made memes part of a counter culture. Nobody was seeking clout for photo-shopped JPEG’s that took 20 minutes to make, even if the joke was brilliant. They were just something people launched into the stratosphere for no reason other than they could and wanted to.
Nowadays everybody posts the same recycled GIFS and memes in search of clout. Sharing because you find it funny is one thing, but there’s an entire industry of individuals who steal content from Reddit then post it to Twitter as if it were original, and vice versa. Mainstream media outlets as well as social media giants have also tried to cash in on memes to the point of forcing them. Gone are the days of organic, original content that wasn’t made 150% for attention or narrative control.
Nothing displays this more than the WW3 memes over the last few days. Anybody with access to a Twitter account felt the need to tweet some generic GIF of black people dancing captioned “me and the boys when that draft letter hit”. Forced captions, dead memes, hyper-political content. We’ve seen it all over the last few days.
The worst part is that every time a big geopolitical event happens, we get this same bombardment of WW3 memes. The same GIFS, the same forced captions, the same unironic posting as if it were groundbreaking content. For every five worthwhile WW3 memes, there’s 1,000 of these. If you were on Twitter or Reddit last week, odds are you probably didn’t spend much time there because this is all your timeline would have been filled with.
At the end of the day, I’m not hating. This is just the natural cycle of things. Something becomes cool and groundbreaking, everybody catches on, and before long, the innovative thing is beaten to death 10 times over. Gone are the days of humble meme farmers. All we have to look forward to now are cyclic WW3 memes, Beyonce GIFS and fast food chains tweeting emojis at each-other.