There are many things to love about social media, among them the ability to easily stay connected with friends and family, and there are many things to loath about social media, among them the ability to be repeatedly annoyed and angered by your friends and family and their friends a family. This is especially true when it comes to “big” events, like elections or mass shootings, that stoke emotions and raise the heat in the proverbial kitchen. Those events also tend to motivate “meme” makers to come up with a combination of images and text that, purportedly, reflect the beliefs of a segment of society and are easily shareable by members of the “tribe.” Here’s an example that was recently shared on Facebook:
If you hate Hillary Clinton, or consider yourself a conservative, you might look at this and nod your head in agreement and then with less thought than you’d give to picking the color of socks you’re going to wear you click “share” and let the world know you think this sentiment is right on. Fair enough; you’re entitled to your opinion. However, if you unpack this meme do you really think it’s fair?
Is she filthy rich? The average American would say so. Is she white? Our eyes tell us she is. Is she nominally Christian? Depends on who gets to determine where the line is between nominal and fully invested. If you think you’re a true Christian and are qualified to make that judgment then please remind yourself of the whole “throwing the first stone” thing. Does she get donations from big corporations? Undoubtedly, but who doesn’t in her position? Voted for the Iraq War? I assume there’s a record of it, and I seem to remember she did.
Now here comes the trouble, “I am everything liberals hate, and yet I am the one they want. If that’s not mental illness, what is it?” These two sentences epitomize what’s wrong with our state of discourse in this country, and why memes like this truly suck. Some points:
- Painting everyone in a group with a broad brush with a definitive statement like this is just wrong. I guarantee you there are plenty of liberals who don’t hate rich people, or white people (hell, there are a LOT of liberal white people) or someone voting for a misbegotten war. Just as there are plenty of conservatives who DO hate rich people, white people and people who voted for a misbegotten war.
- Ridiculing people on the other side of your debate will almost certainly create acrimony. Simply put, we can debate gun control reasonably up until the point we start calling each other names or questioning the others intellect or morals. Then we just have a fight and nothing constructive gets done.
- Reflexively sharing these things just makes the sharer look lazy. Have a point? Make it yourself. And this isn’t as much about the funny “shares” that you’ll see around an issue, unless of course it’s funny because it belittles those on the other side of the table. Here’s a simple test: if the meme is funny because you’re laughing AT your opposite, then it’s only funny to you. If you’re laughing WITH them, then it’s probably okay, but ridiculing your opposite only means you’re making yourself a part of the problem rather than the solution.
Think this is an over reaction? You’re free to disagree, but I would argue that every one of these memes adds one more pixel to the mural of distrust we are painting on the giant wall that our country is quickly becoming.