Written by Caelin Sutch.

It goes without saying that COVID19 has affected society in a variety of ways, from the rise in alcohol consumption and the 53% of adults whose mental health has been negatively impacted.

This article is not to discuss these more obvious issues that have arisen with social isolation, but rather a serious social one: Have you seen the memes?

If you have spent any time on the internet during the quarantine period (which almost everyone has), you have probably come across at least a couple memes. Meme production, always a crucial part of internet culture, has been on the rise as more people find themselves stuck at home, endlessly scrolling through popular social media sites like Instagram or Reddit. Combine this with a seemingly infinite amount of meme-able issues, and you have the start of a meme apocalypse. 

This cornucopia of memes overflowing from every social media site has spawned an elaborate and interconnected network of jokes, funny images, and turned otherwise serious discussions into interjections of irony and sarcasm.

In this age of memes, serious topics like rising rates of alcoholism can be dismissed and trivialized with memes like this one:

Any attempt of serious discussion on issues that face vast amounts of American society is immediately overshadowed by an outpouring of irony and sarcasm that supposedly makes everyone feel better.

Using irony as a humor tactic to defuse stressful social situations is nothing new, but the extent that the internet has proliferated modern society is no joke. When this:

can replace a serious discussion on the impact of social isolation, it’s clear that irony has been normalized when approaching tricky social issues. 

As someone who enjoys the dopamine rush and temporary repression of reality these memes provide, I struggle to reconcile the rise of these sarcastic and untimely remarks with attempts at serious conversation. 

I am no sociologist or mental health expert (just a freshmen giving a hot take), but I would like the reader to consider a couple serious questions: Have you been considering serious issues that plague our society with flippancy or with the weight and respect they deserve or have you devolved into making sarcastic and ironic memes or remarks, have you been derailed from approaching a topic with proper gravity due to irony? 

We all know the ideal answers to these questions (Yes, No), but I’d be pressed to find someone who could provide these answers honestly (I’m guilty as charged for both these). 

Who knows, perhaps memes have encouraged more people to use irony as a way to be honest about how they feel and defuse possibly uncomfortable situations about personal issues? Today’s world may seem apocalyptic, but humor makes it seem approachable and livable. Either way, we cannot deny the way this discourse impacts our perception of serious issues in our society. 

I’m no enlightened or perfect being, but I do think putting more effort into seriously reflecting on current issues would go a long way to begin tackling and understanding the world’s problems.

By Caelin Sutch

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