Meme Mania: Mittens over malice

Give this year a chance, and don't forget last year. Photo courtesy of NPR

2021 Memes don’t give the year a chance

Give this year a chance, and don’t forget last year. Photo courtesy of NPR

Only a few weeks into the year and users across all social media platforms have already shut down 2021 with a tsunami of memes. Whether it be the twins from The Shining—one labeled 2020, the other ‘21, all under the caption “2021 is going to be different”—or a laughing DiCaprio under that same caption, the sentiment is clear. Of course, it was an intense start to the year, with the Capitol being breached for the first time since 1812, and a former president inciting the violence.  

But—while some of these memes may be pretty well-crafted and witty—the intense abundance of people writing off the year isn’t going to help anyone. The essence of most memes center around humor as a means to cope with suffering—be it mental health struggles or the political tragedy of the day. 2020 kicked off an entirely new standard for suffering, and this cultural phenomenon latched on parasitically.  

Now, an important disclaimer—humor is essential, and some of these posts point out something honest about humanity or the human experience, but what is equally as important is that people recognize when they are only digging the hole deeper, not just for themselves, but by the emotional precedent they are setting for others.  

Consider a teenager in a crucial time of their emotional development, and with quarantine and the limited social interactions of the past year, they have been largely limited to their social media interactions, shaping both directly and subliminally the way they relate to social and political constructs, their own identity, and yes—time. Constancy has consequences on the brain, and as creatures of habit, people aren’t always taking a step back to think about how the content they put their time to is the content they put their mind to.  

It’s a continuation of a dark time for a lot of the world, and yet so much of the social media interests are found in attempts to humorize without deep attention to the societal behaviors they are perpetuating. Again, humor is a deeply crucial antidote to the grief and anxiousness many are feeling, but it’s worth first considering whether it’s being used as a crutch. While everyone is tacitly subscribed to the construct of the calendar year, not everyone needs to subscribe to a year of hopelessness before it has really begun.   

NPR shared a video of an all-Black Birmingham choir, in a church that once refused African Americans, singing out the end of 2020 with “Auld Lang Syne” as a reminder that dark chapters should not be forgotten, but conquered for the sake of unifying in strength and support. 

Don’t write off the year just yet, and for those whose self-expression relies on meme-posting, consider hopping on the Bernie-Sanders-in-Mittens Bandwagon in new and creative ways.

This is a selection from the Feb. 3 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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