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College students need memes and news

Political memes and visualized content has altered the way millennials interact with social media.   |   Jason Lin/ THE CHIMES

 

The stress and exhaustion of being a college student suddenly evaporated as a slew of “dank memes” overwhelmed my Facebook feed. After having a discussion about war and politics, my best friend decided to artistically juxtapose the sadness and complexity of life with the cruel and shallow humor of political memes. In light of a polarized presidential election, memes have replaced the political cartoon as the dominant source of humor and political criticism. Millennials, especially college students, need to evaluate how visualized communication is changing our image-saturated culture.

an image-saturated culture

Humans now have the ability to access almost all the knowledge of the world from their phones, but it seems many people are using one of the greatest tools in human history to proliferate hilarious memes and emojis. Memes are a great way to alleviate the madness that is the current presidential election. On Facebook, the “Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash” has over 400,000 members and the much smaller but equally funny “Jill Stein Dank Meme Stash” has over 40,000 members. Everyday, social media users are bombarded with news about the latest mass shootings or political scandal. Sometimes, we all need senseless humor to lighten the mood and bond with others over a meme poking fun at Hillary or Trump. This does not mean millennials are unwilling to invest our time and energy in fighting the real political problems plaguing our country today. German Lopez writes in an article by Vox on how “different generations do all sorts of weird things that others simply won't get — just think of all your dad's terrible jokes.”

Millennials are living in an image-saturated culture in which visualized content is beginning to gain significance in the public square. One might argue the Internet has become our generation’s “bread and circuses” — a form of entertainment distracting the masses from the real problems afflicting our political and social sphere. Facebook is now the prime marketplace for social media users to express their opinions and yes, to create and share the latest meme.

Harambe or Dat Boi

Facebook has become a digital jambalaya of political opinions and individual expression. While college students are sharing the latest memes about Harambe or Dat Boi, Facebook users in other parts of the world are suffering from censorship. According to the Associated Press, Facebook and the Israeli government have recently collaborated to “determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network.” The Israeli government and the social media company are censoring “Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation” according to an article by The Intercept.

Another article by The New York Times Magazine shows how Facebook has “centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way.” According to a study by Pew Research, over 62 percent of social media users get their news from social media and an estimated 66 percent of Facebook users receive their news from the site. The Silicon Valley-based social network company uses complex algorithms and sophisticated tools to control what you see — including political news. From your run-of-the-mill meme to your article about the latest political news, millennials need new ways to share online content.

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