Are memes amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict appropriate?

By Luke Araujo | Staff Writer

Humor is a powerful tool. It allows people in challenging times to cope with difficult circumstances, but it can also be used to degrade and diminish.

After the Feb. 22 Russian invasion of Ukraine, social media was at once hit with memes centered around the possibility of World War III, the military draft, Russians and Ukrainians and other related scenarios. In response, many people have fired back at the creators of these memes with a question: Is this not in poor taste?

A common retort refers to the use of these memes as a coping method. These jokes are meant to lighten the mood, right?

The core issue, however, is that most memes about the crisis are from those sitting comfortably in their home, typing on their phone or computer about something that is not directly affecting them.

The people making these memes are not facing the constant fear of losing their homes or loved ones, of becoming a statistic. And now, from the comfort of their home, the people making these memes are inadvertently downplaying the tragedy and horrors that Ukrainians are facing at this very moment.

Memes centered around World War III and the draft take the focus away from Ukrainians and project it onto other countries. It also spreads fear and confusion when the possibility of a world war is not the most immediate concern resulting from this conflict.

I do not want to create the impression that humor is universally inappropriate in tough circumstances. I also want to avoid pushing the notion that people making these memes are doing so out of malice or hatred. Instead, I want to perpetuate the discussion about when humor is appropriate and when it is not.

I am not above dark comedy, especially when it comes from those who are suffering from trauma or conflict. But I think in situations like this, where thousands of people are affected by an event, where countless people are dying or displaced or maimed, there is a point where we must stop to look at what we think is an appropriate time for humor. It is such an enormous degree of loss and tragedy, and we do not even know what the future holds for the people of Ukraine.

While I do not wish to police what people post on the internet, I do hope that those who post and create memes about heavy topics put some thought into what someone suffering from these situations may feel about it. And, on top of that, I hope that the people of Ukraine may one day find their own way of coping with the situation.