Let's take one of the harmless ones, for starters. There is the Paranoid parrot - a photo of a blue parrot looking over its shoulder. The above the photo line is usually something pretty ordinary, but this triggers are paranoid response that you can read in the under the photo line. There's nothing wrong with that, right?
Then there's the celebrity kind of meme, featuring either actors, actresses, or people who are already of public interest. They seem to be fair game to be made fun of. I don't really know if they care, if they find the memes funny or not, or if the memes will influence their careers in one way or the other. I guess if they really mind being a meme, they will do something about it. Ryan Gosling seems to be the most prominent example of those memes. In an interview he was given some of his memes as printouts, and he played along, reading them for the camera and laughing - so he seems to find them entertaining. Then there's Conspiracy Keanu, using an old screenshot of Keanu Reeves from a comedy movie. But there are lots of less well-known actors features as memes, too, for example High Expectations Asian Father (who is South Korean actor Jeon Mu-SongKorean) or the Angry School Boy (who is also a character in a film, apparently). For them, being forced into this cliché might cause some problems in their later career.
So far, so good. But the creation of memes seems to be a slippery slope of forcing a stereotype onto somebody. The person gets no say in that. If you're lucky, it's something like Ridiculously photogenic guy. All of the captions are really positive and flattering, so I guess he feels quite charmed by the whole experience (I don't know how his girlfriend or employer feel about all of that, though). In the TV interview he said that he felt "honored to be part of a joke that in good spirit" (see the interview here) but he also says that there are often vicious things on the internet.
And see, that's the whole point of this post: the vicious, mean, bullying kind of meme. They grab an unfortunate photo (and believe me, there are a lot of unfortunate photos of all of us). They find something mean to say - and boom! There's your new meme. A person suddenly is depicted as stupid, retarded, shallow, stalker-y, incestuous, violent, addicted. And there are just so many of them. We all have seen Ermahgerd Girl , Overly Attached Girlfriend , Redneck Randal - there are so many more. How do they feel about being made fun of? How does it harm their lives? How will they be perceived on a job interview or on a first date? And the malevolence doesn't even stop there - photos of children with down syndrom and the caption "I can count to potato", to name just one example.
When I was younger, there was bullying, too. But there were limits. If you were made fun of at school, you had your friends outside of school, in your football team, or music school, or ballet lessons. It wasn't the end of the world. You knew who the bullies were. You could talk to the principal, your parents, their parents, other friends, dozens of people actually, even to the police, to try and make it stop. And a mean joke would end eventually because people forgot about it. But that's different nowadays.
Today you can bully people and still stay anonymous. You lose your inhibitions, all those rules that we have about what's morally acceptable, what's right and what's wrong. It's just the internet, right? And you don't know the person. You don't have to say it to their face. You don't have to witness their reaction to the humiliation. You don't have to see them as people - they're just photos. Jokes. Memes. How about you imagine your face plastered all over the place?
People will be chased by that sort of shit for the rest of their lives. Facebook, Pinterest, all of them, will probably turn their heads and look the other way. Even if you got them to delete the photos, they will pop up somewhere else. And people will find something even meaner to say. And the police? I truly believe that they try to help, but what can they do against a force of millions of internet users? Most of the time no one knows who started it. But this kind of bullying ruins lives. It's not a joke. It is not harmless. It makes people miserable and helpless. It might even make some of them suicidal.
Young people, especially, need our support. They need good role-models. And sometimes they need adults to say no. Don't tell me there are just teenagers on pinterest who pin and re-pin that sort of shit. These are adults who should know better. And I've seen it in blogland, too - also on blogs of moms. Why do grown up people need to make fun of the ermahgerd girl? To feel better about themselves? To pretend to be young and hip? Seriously, get over it.
Let's put an end to those mean memes. Swoon at Ryan Gosling all you want, but leave the other people alone. Don't pin. Don't re-pin. Don't like.