Memes: World Events Through The Eyes of Gen Z?
Despite the absurdity of the notion that memes can be more profound than a trivial internet joke, younger generations have developed a culture which utilises memes, not only as entertainment, but as a form of communication that allows us to process and discuss real world activities. This is represented in the meme depicting a scenario imagining future generations reflecting on our current events as significant historical moments. “The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020" refers to the time period preceding the first government-mandated lockdowns, when people rushed to stock up on supplies, such as large amounts of toilet paper. The meme then relates the insanity of this to the incident at Cincinnati Zoo when a “gorilla named Harambe,” was killed after a child fell into his enclosure.
The internet responded to both by creating memes, until the topics were trending across platforms. Just as this meme does, younger generations are able to reference viral memes as benchmarks along a timeline of major events that occurred in their lifetime. In addition to tracking these events, keeping up to date on popular memes provides some people with a coping mechanism for the changes in society and the world.
From the deaths of big celebrities like Prince, David Bowie, and Carrie Fisher, to shootings, terrorist attacks, and the election that made Donald Trump president, the shocking events of 2016 were turned into meme content, as youths favoured a humorous defense against the plethora of tragedy and emotional distress the year saw. Similarly in 2020, these memes helped boost morale as people were stuck in quarantine due to covid-19. Because of this, meme culture can be used to define how the first generation to grow up with the Internet expresses themselves, connects with each other, and navigates the rest of the world.