Perspective Society

Memes = Social Harmony?

The internet is also causing the creation of a heterogeneous culture of humans globally, something that has never been seen before. Today, we are aware about what is going on in different parts of the world and more importantly, how people live their lives in their respective nations and societies. A result of this integrative process is 'memes.'

One of the greatest inventions – the Internet has resulted in a great many things. It made access to information convenient, communication efficient and in general a rise in the quality of life of the people. It has even brought about the ‘information era’ or ‘information revolution’ due to its high level of integration with human lives. No invention can match up to it in the last two decades. The internet is also causing the creation of a heterogeneous culture of humans globally, something that has never been seen before. Today, we are aware about what is going on in different parts of the world and more importantly, how people live their lives in their respective nations and societies. A result of this integrative process is ‘memes.’

Apart from its colloquial usage, the term meme has an anthropological definition. It mainly refers to an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme. Memes are the ‘genes’ of society in the sense that they can be replicated from one person to another living within the same societal context and system. For example, the touching of feet of elders can be termed as ‘meme’ in the Indian society because it is a widely accepted act of receiving blessings from our elders as well as respecting them.

When we talk about memes on the internet, the overall concept remains the same, however in my experience I have found it to be that it has created its own culture and society online . A person who has access to the internet and popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, 9GAG, Reddit, Tumblr etc. has definitely come across memes. In fact 9GAG is a site that is 100% used for sharing memes with other users on it.

Just like any other average person, I too have accounts on these sites and have come across memes. I have been an active member of the ‘internet community’ for at least a decade now. I’ve been coming across memes for the major part of the decade. During this time I have had the opportunity to witness the rise of the ‘internet society.’ This ‘society’ has only two requirements for you to be a part of it.

  1. An active internet connection.
  2. Accounts on some, if not all social media sites.

It’s not a conventional society. You don’t need to be born in a specific location, be a member of that specific religious community, be a citizen of a specific country. All you need to do is fulfill the requirements I have mentioned. BOOM, you are now a member of this 4.6 billion strong society (Source: Statista.Com). This society talks about everything, current affairs, history, philosophy, whether pineapple belongs on pizza or not (it does), it uses bananas as a uniform scale of measurement, it even makes fun of social evils like racism and sexism (in a satirical way of course).

However, the one thing that unifies this society more than ever is MEMES. The Urban Dictionary (the dictionary which contains the meanings of the internet lingo) defines MEMES as

By the way, this definition is a meme in itself, but it’s kind of like a tier-3 meme so it would require a considerable knowledge of the internet’s history to actually understand why memes are considered to be the cure of depression. Yes, the internet has a history and you will need to catch up with a lot of references, hidden meanings, double meanings, events and trends before you are able to understand the present. It’s almost like understanding the real world, except things like using bananas as a reference of measurement is a legitimate thing.You may be surprised to know that on the meme website 9gag.com a considerable proportion of the users keep themselves updated with the current affairs of the world by simply checking out the latest memes that were made on the issue. To give you a personal example, I did not know that the container ship ‘Ever Given’ was stuck in the Suez Canal until I saw this meme on 9gag.

Moreover, memes are revealing that we as humans share much more things across societies than we originally thought. The incessant fear of running out of a dark room so that the hidden monster doesn’t catch you is prevalent throughout the world. My personal favorite is when I realized that the perfect balance you achieve while sleeping with a blanket on (because it’s not warm enough) but keeping a single foot out (because it’s also not cold enough) has been discovered not just by my friends, but also by Crawlingflour who is posting their comment from some random corner of the planet, I may never meet them but for that one meme, we understood each others sentiments perfectly.

The following meme, even though it is not framed properly, is something that is relatable to anyone who has ever travelled in a car that turned a corner just slightly too fast.

You must have read about the recent Josh Fight that took place on 24th April where a random ‘Josh Swain’ brought together a many Joshes into one group on Facebook and challenged them to a fight that was scheduled to take place on 24th April 2021 at specific coordinates (40.8223286, -96.79820002). The winner of the fight would be allowed to keep their name Josh while the rest would have to change their names. People were apprehensive about whether this fight would actually take place since the previous ‘Area 51 Raid’, organized by the same internet community was a major flop. A handful of people showed up with just one person Naruto Running towards the base in the background of a news reporter’s live telecast.

But it did happen. People showed up and in large numbers too. Not just that, the battle did take place (it was supposed to be a pool noodle battle) and a winner was selected. The Ultimate Josh. (Although you don’t want people huddling up by the hundreds from different parts of the country during a pandemic, but I guess the U.S’s track record in handling the entire pandemic says otherwise) It was Josh Vinson Jr (photographed below)

Josh Vinson Jr. – The One True Josh

Although the event was limited to the United States, members of the internet community did not hesitate in participating even if it were just online. It is being treated as a ‘meme’ but it is an anthropological marvel for me. People from different parts of the world coming together, talking about it, actively participating in it through whatever means they can, through posting memes about it online, participating in online discussions, or even driving down to the actual event.

Today, if you were to meet a stranger, someone you have never met in real life before and have had exposure to this online society, you will be able to gel with them much more easily. This feeling is somewhat like meeting someone from your home state in a different state or for our international readers, meeting a fellow countryman from your home country in a different part of the world. The feeling is exhilarating and you instantly connect on the basis of this shared identity. The internet, specifically memes, have successfully created the same sense of belongingness. We have a history together, without having ever been together.

Allow me to exemplify it. Check out this calendar.

Every year, there is a trend of a specific meme almost every month. Like this month i.e. April 2021 was characterized by the Josh Fight Meme. Send this calendar to your friend (who is also into memes) and you’ll instantly be able to bond with them over this calendar. This is our history, the history of the internet. It takes inspiration from all corners of the world. Who would’ve thought that you would come to know about Ghanian Dancing Pallbearers? Or that guy who plays a song with the cat vibing to it (Ievan Polkka)

Memes can bring about social harmony. It’s somewhat similar to ‘The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention’ which was proposed by Thomas Friedman. In a nutshell, the theory explains how globalization affects foreign policy and conflicts between nations. It points out that no two countries with McDonalds in them have gone to war with each other. Similarly, my Memematic Theory Of Social Harmony (I made this up on the fly, just like how people make memes) would like to state that Society can achieve harmony through memes because we are able to create a global heterogeneous culture that in turn will reduce tension between social groups and create a cooperative and conducive environment for social harmony.

I hope you liked this one. Share your favorite memes in the comment section, till then, I will see you in the next article.

-Priyamvad Rai


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