You’re driving down the highway and you have only seconds to decide whether you’re going to continue straight toward “making better decisions that are more beneficial to my mental health” or taking a sharp right on the off-ramp to “holding onto my unhealthy coping mechanisms because it’s more fun.”
And yet, at the last moment, you swerve and take the off-ramp, even though you know going straight was in your best interest.
If this all sounds a little too familiar, it’s probably because it is. Earlier this year, the “Left Exit 12” meme went viral, portraying this very situation.
Memes can be obnoxiously hilarious and bring some good laughs into our days. However, they have also become shields for people who shelter themselves away from approaching real life problems.
We all have our vices when it comes to coping with the unpleasantness of life, especially college students. With the turmoil that’s happening in our country and society in addition to our personal lives, it is easy to get caught up in the things that help to make our problems seem a little less intimidating. Memes help us do that.
People create memes that range in topics from the difficulties of being in a relationship, to the struggles of being a college student, all the way to the incompetence of America’s political system. They are a true example of bringing a little humor to a problematic situation in order to make it seem more approachable and easier to talk about.
But let’s face it. Even though we may wish that the hardships we face in life were all just some big joke, they will never get easier, or better, if we continue to approach them as little, light-hearted jokes, and not serious issues.
Memes are powerful enough to remind us that there are issues without worrying us. Instead, our only response is to laugh. We feel a little more comfortable and apathetic, and we forget that there are real problems at stake.
The real issues are not the memes, however. It starts with those of us who see that there are flaws within our political, educational, religious, and justice systems, and do nothing to speak up about it. Instead, we retweet a relatable meme pertaining to that particular topic.
Remember when a recording of one our lovely president’s conversations was leaked and he was under major fire for saying that because he is famous he can inappropriately grab women by the… well, you know what?
And the internet’s immediate action was to turn it into a meme. I even found myself laughing at a meme where Donald Trump was photoshopped into a Wheel of Fortune game and he was seemingly upset when he found out that the actual phrase was “Take Her to The Party.”
It’s funny, right?
This meme shows that we have acknowledged there is a problem and haven’t actually done anything to change it. But where is the solution in this meme? It doesn’t offer one. It’s just provides us with a lighthearted way to face the fact that the man running our country is possibly a huge creep and no one is really questioning it.
When we are aware of recurrent social and political issues like these, and our response is to go straight to our phones to make a joke of them, nothing gets fixed. Rather than focusing our time and energy on making jokes of these situations, we need to direct it to the actual problem.
I’m sure that by now, as adults, we all get that doing life is nothing easy. There comes a point where we have to do our part in stepping in or speaking up against the injustices that people have to face in their lives. Hiding behind memes and funny internet jokes without questioning the real issues only allows for us to be passive bystanders and not active participants.
Even though memes are a great way to satirize the awful political leaders and people we face in American life, they do not offer a solution to the issues in which they are attacking. It is important for us to understand—especially if we hope to see changes to the problems most important to us—that while we can appreciate the comedic relief that memes bring into our lives about these sometimes alarming situations, we can do a lot more in being a part of the solution.
I am not saying memes are criminal thing to enjoy. I love them just as much as any other young internet fiend. However, if we are going to be consumers of these funny internet memes, we must also be responsible receivers of the jokes we so readily laugh at.
We must question the problems to which they are referring to and ask ourselves: why is this a problem and what can we do to change it?
Memes are here to stay, people, so let’s do our part in not allowing them to entirely consume our abilities to solve problems creatively, and start letting them turn our apathy into productivity.