Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Memes That Miss The Mark
These days it is ever so common to see memes posted on social media sites, that we are lulled into thinking that we are seeing pearls of wisdom. In addition, it is also very easy to create and post our own memes that attract readers by virtue of their flashy colors and bold fonts. Good memes with thoughtful themes and enduring truisms are helpful inspirations, but too many memes that grace the pages of social media sites are ill-conceived and do not carry messages that inspire. Too many are delusional scraps of nonsense.
If it were just a matter of scrolling past the memes that really don’t project worldly truths before moving on to other things, those of us who try to use critical thinking are not sharing insights that might have value to others. Of course, there are degrees of truth that could apply to memes, so one should neither immediately embrace them at face value nor reject them outright if there are some redeeming aspects to them. It would be helpful to display a few memes to make the point more clearly.
If it seems that the Footloose Forester is just a contrarian who finds fault with everything, you would be playing into his opening for the riposte that there is a difference between being critical and exhibiting critical thinking. Inasmuch as the Footloose Forester is a fan of many of the Greek, Roman, and Chinese philosophers whose memorable quotes may have been converted into memes, he realizes that not all that passed their lips one day became immortal quotations that transcended time. So it is that he is hesitant to accept at face value the implied wisdom of many modern day quotes that turn up in fancily adorned memes.
Without the intricate framing of the square meme box, the Footloose Forester readily accepts the wisdom of:
A STITCH IN TIME SAVES NINE
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
but rejects out of hand a few recently published memes he saw on the Internet. First and foremost is the most recent, as shown below.
The odds that the admonition in the meme above is true are so low that it would be a waste of time to try to disprove the presumption that the nearest book contains a description of your life, to be found, magically, on page 45. Thanks to memes.com for introducing us to a clever new click-bait gambit. Eatliver.com also shares in making up bogus wisdom sharing games. Perhaps they thought that the wisdom of the ancients is too passé for boomers and millennials. You have to enlarge the picture above to read the fine print, but their domain names are there.
There are many other ostensibly inspirational memes out there that presume to elevate and enlighten us. Methinks that there is a profit motive in the mix, with points and incentives going to those who create and those who share, kind of like a modern-day chain letter. Yours truly is guilty of reading through more than his share of clickbait memes. He is still seeking wisdom but more frequently these days he is seeing drivel.
Speaking of drivel, we are bombarded by thoughtless political memes that put irrelevant ideas into our heads, At one time it was fun to refer to them as dumb memes, in non-political issues. These days it seems that we can't keep politics out of anything.
For the record, more than a few of us don't want to be defenseless but the issue should never be broached by a nameless meme maker who paints protesting students as perpetrators of mass rebellion. How do we know what is a valid argument, and what is not? We can start by listening to their words, not by nodding in agreement to a proposition that has no basis in stated fact.
Who are the anonymous meme makers and what do they want to achieve?
Going back hundreds and even thousands of years to re-discover timeless truisms, worldly wisdom, and profound quotations, there has always been a small and dedicated cabal of devotees. These days, however; meme makers are taking center stage as they repackage and repurpose both the profound and the putrid. It is hard to look away from the glitzy frames and stark colors used to dress up the room where modern-day epistles are ever-so-easy to write. As Marshall McLuhan famously pronounced to his acolytes, “the medium is the message.”
Unfortunately, the fancy frames, the filigree, the tactical shading, and other visual eye candy of the basic meme information box too often gets filled up with putrid trash that should bring discredit on the meme makers, themselves. But who are these meme makers, especially those whose few words of outrageously false propaganda is usually cloaked in the secrecy of their names, affiliations, and production headquarters? In the good old days, a memorable quotation that was shared in print usually included the name and historical reference to the approximate time period. These days the anonymous meme makers feel emboldened to publish the most egregiously baseless trash, partly because they know that they may not be held accountable for a single word, never mind the veracity of the explosive topics they choose. Political memes, above all, stretch credulously to the limit.
The political proclivities of the Footloose Forester are not the issue here, but seeking factual substantiation for familiar talking points is. Hence, a recent undated and anonymous meme as shown below
meme makers play loose with the truth
Who do we challenge when we wish to challenge the factual content of anonymous memes? Meme makers have a nice gig going and probably earn a lot of attention. Reasonable people will scoff at such rubbish, but they will react, whether with a laugh or a sense of approval. Few people will, however; question whether or not ubiquitous political memes really hit the mark.
About the author
Thank you for the response, Mark. It is always encouraging to know that there are thinkers like you out there. Although my impulse as a contrarian is strong, my quest for uplifting ideas and themes is stronger. Memes are powerful, or can be, because of the attractive packaging that sometimes hides the message. I'll be on the lookout for your research papers in Linguistic Possibilities in Memes.
I'll be on the lookout for your company url, but it is not shown here. In the meantime, please teach me something about meme making. If you can't beat them...join them.