When I Share a Controversial Meme

When I share a controversial meme

When I share a meme_edited-1 (1)

Joke—I never share controversial memes!

Well, almost never.

First, I should define what I mean by “meme” and “controversial meme.” I’m using the terms “my way” and if you don’t understand what I mean, then (by definition) you will misunderstand what I’m saying.



Meme: I’m using (or misusing) this term to mean “image macro.” I wish I had a different word for these photos with captions that are shared online. I almost coined my own word (“imma”) but that just seemed goofy. The word “meme” has many other proper definitions but I’m referring to the popular use of the term as a synonym for image macro.

Controversial Meme: I’m using the phrase “controversial meme” to distinguish between memes that are for comic purposes only and memes that make a point. Even though a controversial meme may be funny, its primary purpose is to make a statement.

New Friday Blog Series

I see a lot of people share memes on facebook and elsewhere online. At first I assumed these were shared to start a conversation on the topic.

Oops—wrong! Nine times out of ten the poster is sharing the meme primarily to declare their “side” on a societal issue. It’s kind of like putting a flag on their front lawn. If someone points out errors in the meme, they become defensive (“Who cares whether it’s true or not? The underlying point is still right!”)

I wanted a chance to react to controversial memes.  Facebook (and other forms of social media) are not great places to do this for several reasons, such as (but not limited to):

  • My thoughts aren’t always brief
  • I need time to think about the meme and by the time I’ve come up with a non-knee-jerk response, social media has moved on.
  • I don’t like to “pick on” the person who shared the meme. Sometimes a particular controversial meme just pushes my buttons because of my mood or because it’s the 10th time I’ve seen it in a week. I don’t mean to unload on a random friend just because of timing (although I have done so in the past…).
  • I like the fact that memes provoke thought and new ideas. I don’t need to see only posts that I agree with.  I also like to see what my friends think. Too much pushback and they might unfriend me or decide to hide their opinions.  I don’t want to live in an echo chamber.

OK, that last point is not totally true. I would love to live in an echo chamber and never face uncomfortable opinions.  It’s just that one can never be sure of the truth of one’s opinions without stepping out of the chamber and wrestling with opposing thoughts. I try to care more about finding the truth than being comfortable in my assumptions.

That said, on this blog I don’t plan to criticize memes by whether I agree or disagree with the underlying point. For that, you need to visit a different kind of blog.

I’m interested in thinking aloud about why particular memes are good or bad in the way they convey their messages.  A good meme sheds light on an issue and a bad meme muddies the water. This is true whether you agree with the message or not.

I’m going to try to do a post a week on this topic for a while and see what kinds of things I find out.

Controversial Memes – Varying Perspectives

For my first post here, I’m just going to explain what I meant by the meme that I made and shared above. I’m not critiquing it (it’s mine so I have no perspective!) The meaning should be obvious, but if I’ve learned anything by participating in social media it’s that even the simplest statements can be misunderstood.   I’ll repeat the meme here:

When I share a meme_edited-1 (1)

  1. What I think I’m doing: When I share a controversial meme, I think the argument in my meme checkmates the opposing position. Don’t bother me with rebuttals, you can’t deny this!
  2. What my allies think I’m doing:  People who agree with me nod their heads and say, “Wow, that’s a home run for our side!” They might have a little more perspective to see that it’s not a complete checkmate.
  3. What my opponents think I’m doing:  People who disagree roll their eyes and moan, “Not this stupid argument again! What a clown.”
  4. What undecideds think I’m doing:  People who haven’t made up their mind on an issue are more likely to look at the meme and think, “Yeah, but what about…?” They are on the fence and can see both sides. They interpret the meme as the opinion of just one of the proverbial blind men describing the elephant.
  5. What my mom thinks I’m doing:  Well, this really isn’t what my mom thinks. My mom will either have the reaction of the allies or the opponents depending on whether she agrees or not. This is more what I think if I see one of my own kids sharing a meme. “You’re not convincing anybody, you’re just provoking people! You’re going to get hurt!”
  6. What I’m really doing:  Yep. Preaching to the choir. Everyone else has learned to scroll on. I think most posters know this is what they’re doing, but, as I said before, they are using the meme to identify which choir they belong to.

Until next week…



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