Don’t panic; stay calm and composed. This is just a hypothetical. I repeat, it is just a hypothetical. Take out your phones, scroll through your newsfeed, and take in some of that sweet amalgamation of pop-culture and childhood nostalgia. Have you recovered from your panic attack? Admit it, if you are reading this line, then you probably have recovered from your panic attack.
Memes aren’t just a currency of the Internet that entertains, they also inform. From teaching us the laws of space-time continuum through Sarath Kumar films, or reinforcing stigma through seemingly progressive mediums, memes are this generation’s history books.
History books are a historian’s account of the world around them. Given how this usually pertains to an individual, a history book is written from a perspective; the documentation of reality will be skewed and biased; there is no such thing as objective documentation. The history books of yesterday that we consume today, do not necessarily tell the whole story. They are versions of different stories written by different people.
That’s not the same case with memes. A representative does not run the Internet; individuals representing themselves run it. And memes are undoubtedly a mode of documentation. From Admit it to Yes, we exist meme formats, memes manage to capture idiosyncrasies and trends in a way that history books cannot; the most informative and well-written history books are the ones that are written from the inside. That is exactly what memes are; except, we get all sides of the story.
Memes are our cave paintings. It’s unsettling that memes might just got out of trend in the next few years, and all the documentation might just not be archived for future generations because of the evolution of technology. That uncertainty aside, what if memes did not exist in our universe? What if the text over image trend hadn’t picked up and become a culture that constitutes Internet language?
Memes provide a voice to those that do not have the ability to articulate well through traditional languages. It allows accessibility and reliability, both being traits that are hard to come by in the new media. This means that a lot of campaigns and protests that took place in the recent past and were deemed successful might not have garnered the same attention it did without memes.
The Jallikattu protests, for instance, would not have gone on for so long with the support of millennials had memes not existed; the factual accuracy a lot of the memes that circulated during the protests is debatable, but imagine information about the protests being shared as a 2000-word essay. Would it have received the same attention it did? Memes, unlike other currencies of the Internet, are transient and it surprisingly connects with an audience despite its appropriation and misappropriation of pop-culture.
Admit it, a world without memes cannot exist.
(When he isn’t writing, the creative producer with The Rascalas watches a lot of ‘cat videos’ on YouTube)