I have been extremely heartbroken lately about the recent mass shootings in our country but also how we again as a country will do nothing. I have been so furious that we have to relive this cycle over and over and I hear the exact same excuses online from so many people why we should’t do anything. And as another shooting happens I know we are all yet again responsible.
And I think that is what really pains me the most. It is the fact that we are all responsible and so many people have drawn a line in the sand and absolutely refuse to help or try anything to make it better. And I see the same memes over and over with fallacious logic explaining their points against taking any action quite clearly (and sometimes even threateningly). And it is ridiculous! For god’s sake just call your representative, write an email or post something saying you are willing to try. Because being firmly planted is costing lives.
This is a democracy and we need everyone to show up if we want change made. So in hopes that we don’t have to live Groundhog’s Day all over again here is an unedited excerpt from my upcoming book. It may not appear just like this in the book and just know it hasn’t been edited. But I hope it helps spur the idea that we need more talk not more memes. Because memes aren’t helping. Here is the excerpt:
Most of what we post online is just parroted information. We are just reposting something someone else created or taking phrases from another post we saw. We all do it and parroting is marketing in action and here is why:
If you asked a million people from the same political party to say in their own words what they think about a political topic you would get about a million different answers with all kinds of nuance and even some uncertainty.
Now give those people a single meme that is from their political side and they all will share it as if they came up with that answer on their own. And as people like it and comment on it they go back and reread it and cement it as their opinion. They will even defend this post viciously as if it is sacred scripture and completely internalizing that this is their opinion.
But it isn’t their actual opinion. It is a stranger's opinion. For all we know the stranger is probably a troll at best or an extremist at worst. Think about it. This might be the most important idea in the book. When we repost something it isn’t actually our opinion. We just agreed with it or think it is witty and will really stick it to those other people. We followed their logic according to our confirmation bias. It is actually creepy AF if you think about spreading memes as if it was a real conversation:
“I like this meme I am going to share it as my opinion.”
“I like this meme too! I am also going to share it as my exact opinion.”
“I have no idea who made this but this meme is obviously my opinion too!”
“Oh this meme possibly from a troll account speaks for me.”
“I will defend this stranger’s extremely pointed meme against all who criticize!
“How dare you criticize a divisive post created by a stranger! This stranger’s post proves you unequivocally wrong!”
“Oh this meme truly speaks for us all.”
“Who else thinks this meme is exactly their opinion? I will share it and find out!”
“OMG Yesssss! Tons people I know think this stranger’s meme is gospel!”
This creates absolute hive mind. No one agrees exactly like this but one after another we have all fallen in line in exact agreement because of something made by a stranger (who could be a total creepfest). We have internalized it as our own. And it is absolutely making our country more divided because it means strangers and troll accounts with purposefully divisive content are speaking for us all. And this is polarizing what should be a diverse opinion pool.
And remember everything that is put online is meant to be shared. So by sharing and reposting we are doing exactly what that post was marketed to do. We are being a complicit consumer by spreading that content. We have helped a troll get more attention. We fulfilled their need for attention with the exact response they hoped for. We have fed their (most likely nutso) agenda and have decided to take up their stance and defend it as our own. Behold the power of marketing.
And I am always blown away when people parrot memes and concepts shared online in real life as an original thought. It happens daily, especially coming from those who try to avoid politics online. Because you can attempt to ignore politics but you truly can’t because memes are quick and you will see them. And it goes all the way up to the top. Our politicians, the current administration, and biased and far leaning news sources parrot this crap too.
RECAP: A meme is NOT our actual opinion. It is the opinion of a stranger that we are parroting and internalizing as our own. Think about how weird that actually is. It is effectively voluntary brainwashing making masses of people’s opinions on a topic more polarizing.