Considering our state of memergency


By Michael Zhang, Head Designer
Nondescript video begins rolling for all of 4 seconds before its footage immediately cuts to a now iconic audio announcement and theme, the words “John Cena” boldly emblazoned in the interruption. In the shock of heavy trumpet fanfare and a rainbow of wrestling shots, I found myself in disbelief. How could those 10 seconds of media could have skyrocketed into Internet virality? There was no plot, no reference beyond the world of wrestling. But for some reason, I felt strangely compelled to click on the next video. With the same seemingly meaningless stunt already replaying across my eyes, a single coherent thought ran through my head. What state of memergency were we in now?
In 2015, memes have done something different. They have breathed new life into already established icons, pervading our lives in new ways. John Cena was no Nyan Cat; he’s already had an entire career of established wrestling under his rather decorative belt. Yet somehow the Internet was able to craft this second life out of him. Was this just yet another sign of the web’s increasing domain having officially taken over society? Perhaps. In more ways than one, memes have pervaded our daily lives beyond the Internet. Living has no doubt become more connected with the advent of smart-everything, but sadly, this newfound intelligence has not matured in what we can consider modern Internet humor. Dealing with the iconic signs of cultural literacy today and looking at the widespread effects of technology today, we should slow down and actually consider what goes into the memania.
[media-credit name=”Pallavi Aakarapu | The Spoke” align=”alignright” width=”271″]2015-11-20 13:57:09[/media-credit]
I can still remember when celebrating internet memes was the pastime of my youth, an insider joke activity between me and all my geeky friends at nerd camp. Sure there were the occasional mainstream hits like Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, but for the most part knowledge of these memes was like a badge of secret Internet citizenry. Eventually, efforts through online communities such as Reddit and Tumblr would pass the occasional rage comic reference outside of the web, but these instances were far from mainstream. Still, what the memes accomplished were powerful reminders of the Internet’s power, skyrocketing the relative obscurities of cheeseburger-loving cats into stardom. A celebrity-status admittedly only really understood by those who wore the Internet badge, but still a status nonetheless.
You can imagine my astonishment, however, when my younger brother, a sophomore at nearby Episcopal Academy, brought home a full picture of Pepe the Frog, apparently the subject of a recent art project. Even more unexpectedly, apparently Pepe was worshipped as some sort of cult-like figure, spread through the masses by the unlikely hands of Instagram and Snapchat. He, who at the same age as me years before could not understand my connection to troll faces, was now celebrating this strange anthropomorphic frog. And in yet another case, breaking news was broken to me when I learned last month that the PSATs, everyone’s favorite pre-pre-college exam, had now become a popular meme. Sure there were incidences dating all the way back to 2013, but the evangelism of spanish moss and Herminia’s poems across Tumblr and Twitter will make 2015 the year to beat.
Memes have pervaded our lives, seemingly creating obsessions out of the mundane, and it becomes impossible for me not to wonder if what we’re choosing to obsess over is what we should be. That’s not the say that everything is terrible; recent posters mimicking the meme’s iconic white font styling have made their ways into the halls and some classrooms of Conestoga, and in these cases, memes are a nice reminder of a shared understanding and can genuinely teach us something. But for the memes originating on the Internet, will we ever cross the line of acceptable things to meme about? Those keyboard-playing cats now being interrupted unexpectedly by John Cena would probably say so.
Michael Zhang can be reached at [email protected].