I have never been more confident in the decline of Western civilization and the impending, frankly overdue 2012 apocalypse than I am when I look at the veritable cesspool of intellectual and moral decay that is the collection of memes on the Facebook group of the Harvard College Class of 2015. Used as supposedly humorous tools in the arguments over the Abe Liu controversy, they are just another example of awful, idiotic internet creations.
Let’s be clear: I don’t hate all memes, as they are defined in the dictionary. I just hate what we call “memes,” and how they have been abused.
The term has been bastardized. “Meme” was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins when he shortened the Greek word “mimema,” meaning “something imitated” (think Mr. Mime). It was defined as the cultural analogue of the biological gene, or a unit that behaves in culture like a gene might over generations of organisms, copied, miscopied, and altered.
Once referring to a concept of cultural evolution, it now conjures up the endless march of all-too-easy-to-make-and-distribute image macros, which are rarely entertaining enough to justify the time and bandwidth they occupy. One does not simply “make” a meme, as Dawkins would define them, when you create a half-assed image macro on quickmeme.
Besides, memes just aren’t funny, people. A bad “meme” image is like bad poetry—it just sucks and it’s painful to read. Right? So, uh...don’t do it. I’m looking at you out there, making that “High Expectations Asian Father” macro, preying on worn-out cultural stereotypes and a poor imitation of first-generation Asian-American pronunciation difficulties. Close the laptop. Don’t upload your distaste to my Facebook for the cheap thrill of a “like” or two. Go take a walk.