Think before you meme

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

“It’s a meme, you dip,” a quote from a viral YouTube video, is often referenced to address someone who fails to recognize an internet meme.

The issue with meme culture is the acceptance of derogatory and offensive jokes in the name of humor.

Memes are jokes in the form of images, GIFs or videos. While memes vary in form and subject, all have the common motive of humor. Starting with images paired with Impact font captions in the early 2000s, memes evolved to cover more risque topics by 2009, according to USA Today.

In the name of comedy, jokes about things such as racism, sexual abuse, mental health and other issues of gravity have been deemed fair game.

Memes are such integral parts of our culture that if we excuse vulgarity in these widely circulated expressions of thought, we give more allowances for vulgarity in our everyday life.

The original usage of the word “meme” used by Richard Dawkins describes memes as a “unity of cultural transmission” that “spreads from person to person.” The select memes that go viral indicate what we believe and value.

It our responsibility as media consumers and content creators to act as gatekeepers to what is acceptable. While we do not have the ability to take down content, we have agency in what we choose to re-blog, retweet or give attention with likes and comments. Posts only have as much influence and power as people give them.

Because memes are published and exchanged exclusively online, there is little to no regulation of their content. Social networks, particularly those online, act as “vehicle[s] for the spread of ideas,” according to a TEDx article. The rapid pace and integral role social media plays in society makes memes highly influential yet also difficult to filter.

On Sept. 11, Facebook announced the development of an AI program to help identify posts that violates their hate-speech policy. The new computer learning system called Rosetta. It extracts text from images and transcribes it to make it readable by a machine.

As Facebook admitted, these are simply tools “far from done” that by no means guarantee the eradication of offensive memes, thus necessitating action from the average individuals using these networks.

More institutions are tightening their policies on derogatory internet content. Harvard College rescinded acceptance from at least ten incoming freshmen from the class of 2021 after finding a Facebook group chat with provocative content on Mexicans, the Holocaust and child abuse, the student newspaper reported.

While it may seem harmless enough to take part in the joke, it’s not just a meme; it’s a reflection of your ideals.