The “Meme” First Generation

September 2, 2014

Everything has a saturation point. A moment when something goes from being unknown to being mainstream and then possibly overdone. Part of it is that the novelty of something wears off, part of it is that when too many people know about it, it becomes “uncool” since being in an exclusive club was the whole point.


With the power of social media, we are interconnected like never before, but have we begun to become far too passive in our intention at the cost of trying to jump on the latest fad?


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a noble but fairly goofy idea from the start. The idea was to raise awareness and thus, raise MONEY for charity and research in the hopes of one day curing this ruthless disease. The concept was simple, dump ice water on your head and then challenge your friends to do so or else they had to write a check for charity.


In the spirit of the moment, you could donate AND do the challenge but very quickly this concept faded away. In the last few days as everyone’s facebook, twitter and instagram filled with their own showings of the challenges, less and less of them even mentioned ALS. It was now simply the Ice Bucket challenge, a fun summer gag. Gone was the noble spirit.


ice-bucket-challenge african


Sadder still was the recent revelation that much of the money raised wasn’t even directly funding the charity it represented. Instead of jumping on to a fun trend, people should stop and investigate where their hard earned and well meaning dollars are actually going.


Speaking of finding the real meaning, everything happening in Ferguson, Missouri has been tough to comprehend. With still far too little information and far too much spin, it’s become impossible to get a real clear idea of what and why things have escalated. What IS clear is that a young man had his life taken away.


Beyond that, it seems nothing else is concrete. This too has not stopped people from pouring in, some to peacefully protest, others to use it as an excuse to loot and the rest to voice their anger at what they feel is a society that looks down on them. Cops armed like soldiers waging war on the citizens it is supposed to protect is not exactly the image we as a nation want to project.




That’s not to say that the Cops are the villains here. There is a dangerous streak building that the police are the enemies of the people and likewise, that protest NEEDS to be reigned in, violently if needed. Neither of these is really accurate but it has become an ongoing narrative.


The real issue at heart is that the vast majority prefer to comment only on the sidelines or to just yell without any meaning behind it. To break down a volatile situation to a few pithy phrases or hashtags is once again taking a tragedy and making it hopelessly hip and then toothless.


The fear is that every event loses its real weight and beyond that, loses its power for change.  Gone are the days when actual discussion can occur. Instead, pitchforks and flame wars are the response. You are either a Cop-hater or a Thug, classified in one group or another, with the extremes threatening to end all of us together. In fact, the only universal truths now are that everything is broken and violence does not solve violence, but the apathy that has taken over the society is what scares the most.




We are instead left with talking points on the news, fresh charges of racism from every side, rappers bandwagoning by releasing songs to sing about injustice as they jet-set in and out on private planes. It all rings fairly hollow when taken together. The government too has to take its blame here. Instead of looking for ways to fix obvious problems, it prefers to fight out battles for political capital.


How long have we been talking about fixing our backwards criminal justice system where pot nets you more jail time than assault. Or to do anything at all about gun control. Surely we could agree that 9 year olds don’t need to learn how to shoot uzis as a recent tragedy showed? Even the NFL just modified it’s rules to fix flaws. If they can do it, why can’t Congress?


Government is a source of much scorn and unlike so much, it is well deserved. Yet again the problem though is our own apathy toward it. A certain kind of malaise forms when people start to discuss policy: policy that directly impacts all of us. We’d much rather bury our heads than try and send a message to Washington. Far too often the outrage at our local and state reps disappears right around election time and the same people come back year after year.




Part of it is certainly a money issue, as being in power means you have more money to keep yourself there. But surely we’ve reached a point where working in government should not be a viable career? Instead, it should be something you aspire to do for a few years, make an impact then make way for someone else to try.


“Never Again” gets throw about with abandon whenever tragedies happen around the world, but it seems in the US specifically, after a few days we shrug and move on to the latest cat video or crazy challenge that is filling our news feed. There no longer seems to be a place for permanent outrage which is what really leads to actual change.


Call it being de-sensitized or numb, but the root of that is what’s most disheartening. It means we have been down this road far too many times to even register. Fresh tragedies should shake us to our core but we bounce back with both an admirable resolve and a shorter attention span.



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