Let’s Talk About Millennial Humor

Looks like those dang millennials are at it again!

So recently I stumbled across this opinion article from the Washington Post entitled “Why is millennial humor so weird?”  Let’s just start with the opening paragraph.

The article begins with a strange analysis of this particular meme:

 

 

The author writes that “the wiener is not a socialist icon; in fact, he is a breakdancing sausage from a Snapchat filter. His inclusion in a lineup of the U.S.S.R.’s patron saints doesn’t mean anything. Maybe nothing does.”

Then in the next paragraph she writes “in this weird world of the surreal and bizarre, horror mingles with humor, and young people have space to play with emotions that seem more and more to proceed from ordinary life — the creeping suspicion that the world just doesn’t make sense.”

So apparently us millennials are like the stereotypical goth kids, constantly rambling about how everything is dark and nothing has meaning.

To be fair, the author does acknowledge the reasons behind this perceived fascination with meaninglessness.  She briefly talks about how millennials, as they’re growing up, are constantly told that they should go to college, that they need to go to college.  And then when they do go to college and finish, they discover that they’ve basically been lied to.  They spent all this time getting a fancy degree, and often all that leaves them with is a mountain of debt and a part-time job at a company that couldn’t give less of a crap about them.

But at the same time, her tone occasionally feels a little too judgmental.  She references how “traditional sources of meaning, such as religion and family formation”, aren’t as relevant to millennials as they were to prior generations.  “The moral structure they produced has been vastly loosened,” she writes, “and replaced with a soft, untheorized tendency toward niceness — smarminess, really, as journalist Tom Scocca put it in 2013.”  Because if you aren’t worshipping God and making babies, then you clearly aren’t doing it right.

The article goes on to talk about how millennials put off things like buying houses and lists a whole bunch of surveys that are supposed to show how disenfranchised we are as a generation.  Now, putting aside the fact that the stuff about millennials not buying houses is simply not true, there’s one survey that popped out to me: one where fifty-seven percent of those that responded admitted to being lonely.

And where did this survey come from?  Match.com.

Oh, so you discovered that lonely people might decide to use a dating website?  GEE…NEVER WOULD HAVE FIGURED THAT ONE OUT!

 

 

What’s strangest to me about this whole rambling, presumptuous article is that it was written by a millennial.  Yep, you read that right…she states that fact multiple times in the article.  And yet, despite this display of supposed intellectualism (she even uses the phrase “de rigueur” at one point…because you can’t truly be pretentious unless you’re doing it in a different language), she appears to have only scratched the surface of how bizarre the internet can be.  A hotdog wearing green headphones?  Winnie the Pooh as a 9/11 truther in a fan-created comic?  Is that the best you’ve got?

The internet is a rabbit hole whose depths you have not even begun to fathom.

I think the biggest irony behind this whole examination of millennial humor and memes is that the article itself became a meme.  People were taking a snapshot of the article’s web page and replacing that first image with other surreal and bizarre memes.

It’s true what they say…there is no escape.

All joking and sarcasm aside, the article isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, but it does strike me as pointless.  It attempts to pry meaning out of a generation’s brand of humor before concluding that the meaning might be that there IS no meaning and that it’s playing with the general feelings of distress that plague the millennial generation.  But it also backs off on that point, saying that “the weird — even the exceedingly weird — doesn’t have to be purely distressing” before providing examples of more light-hearted memes.  If anything, the fact that it was written by a millennial only makes its existence more confusing.  If this was written by a forty or fifty-year old, I could at least file it under the long establish “old people don’t understand young people” genre.  But as it stands, this article just feels too full of itself to serve any real purpose.

Maybe the hotdog standing with the icons of Communism and Socialism is funny simply because of how ridiculous it is.  It doesn’t have to be some meta-commentary on the feelings of hopelessness that are common with millennials.  It doesn’t have to be part of some grander scheme or greater context.  Maybe it’s there because someone thought it would be funny.

Pro tip: if you have to spend so much time dissecting a certain brand of humor, the chances are you lost the point before you even started.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back on the third Wednesday of next month for another post, and as always, have a wonderful month.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

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When Debates Became Battles

Welcome to the age of snide comments and memes.

“But wait,” you say, “it’s been that way for a while now.”  Well hold on there.  What if I told you this was a problem?  What if I told you that all those snide comments and memes probably and likely contributed to the political divide we saw on display during this election season?  What if I told you that the memes aren’t what they seem?

 

Why yes Morpheus, do go on.

Why yes Morpheus, do go on.

 

In an age where social media dominates, perhaps it was inevitable that our chosen form of information consumption would come from pictures with white words written on them.  This is the internet age, where being “viral” is everything.  So many are looking for their fifteen minutes of fame.  But ironically, it is usually those who aren’t looking for their time in the spotlight that actually get time in the spotlight.  Because that’s just the weird way the internet works.

But all that viral meme-ness has led to a lot of misinformation and false statistics.  For example, you may remember this meme going around a while back:

 

gun-violence-meme

 

It echoes a certain sentiment that pro-gun people have, namely that gun control doesn’t work.  But here’s the problem: the meme is inaccurate.  No matter what metric you use, it seems that it is impossible to put the United States in third place when it comes to murders.  Now, understandably, that makes the second part of the meme much harder to test.  But as Snopes found out, it still doesn’t add up.  Using FBI statistics from 2012, they found that those four cities added together only account for about 7.8 percent of murders in the United States.  So basically, not enough to push the U.S. up from “fourth from the bottom” on this theoretical list of murders.

It might not seem like this meme had all that much impact, considering that it has faded out of view (at least, I haven’t seen it in quite a while).  But in an age when all criticism can be countered by screaming “FAKE NEWS” in all caps on Twitter, things like this are more dangerous than ever.

Memes like these leave no room for debate, nor were they meant to.  They usually come with links to an incredibly biased source or sometimes no links at all.  You’re expected to take them at their word, which is troublesome because so many are filled with biased rhetoric.  They’re not meant to encourage discussion.  They’re meant as a “so there” to discourage any opposing viewpoints.

 

chicago-teen-meme

Memes like this are only ever meant as a self-affirming fist pump, a soothing assurance to a select group of people that their worldview is right and all others are wrong.

 

And misinformation is just as dangerous as ever.  For example, recently an anti-abortion group called “Live Action” released a video that claimed Planned Parenthood was lying about providing access to prenatal care.  Of course, once you actually dig into the story, you’ll find that what Live Action really did was take things out of context so that their viewers would reach the conclusion they wanted them to reach.

That’s exactly what’s so dangerous about the widespread use of memes in political discourse.  It’s very easy for people to click “share” on something that coincides with their views.  It doesn’t matter if the meme is factually inaccurate.  It makes them feel good, so they share it.  And when something like that catches fire on the internet, it becomes nearly impossible to put out.

And in case you think I’m being biased, the left (or liberals, if you prefer) is guilty of this as well.  You might have seen this meme going around during election season:

 

trump-dumbest-voters

 

Ouch.  Yeah, it’s pretty harsh.  Also it’s totally bunk.  There is nothing in People Magazine’s online archive where Trump is quoted as saying anything even close to that.  But still, it was shared and liked by many liberals on Facebook, simply because it fit their mental image of Trump.

If you’re going to criticize someone, criticize them for something they actually did.  And believe me, there’s plenty of things Trump did that are critique worthy.

These days, debates have turned into fights.  They’re no longer about learning, they’re about winning.  They’re no longer about growing as a person, they’re about never admitting you lost.  Instead of trying to understand where someone with an opposing view is coming from, it’s about disparaging them and calling them names.  Why listen to what they’re saying when you can just brush them off as the “regressive left” or the “racist right”?

Bottom line is, we need to be vigilant.  Especially now, in an era where photos and information can be easily manipulated or taken out of context and made to suit specific agendas.  And I get it, it’s hard.  There are even blog sites out there that will make themselves appear to be a news website in an attempt to gain more followers or spread their message.  It’s a metaphorical minefield out there on the internet. and you can never be one hundred percent certain you won’t step right on top of one.  But you can do your part.  Before you click “share” on that buzzy meme, maybe do a little searching on Google to see if the meme’s information is accurate.  If it isn’t, don’t give it the time of day.  Don’t give it its fifteen minutes of fame.  Don’ t give it time in the spotlight.  You’ll be doing us all a favor.

And now, before I go, I leave you with this:

 

willy-wonky-generated-meme

 

Yes, I did that all by myself…using tools I found on the internet.

……

Don’t look at me like that.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.