November 8, 2019

All They Want Are Memes

moody cat

I'm working on a new "theory" about atheist social media that doesn't really deserve to be called a theory. Here it is:

Given sufficient time, any unmoderated social media platform aimed at atheists will devolve into little more than the sharing of memes.
It doesn't matter if it is one of the older and more established platforms like Twitter or Facebook or if it is one of the newer ones like Minds or MeWe. Unless someone imposes moderation of some sort, everyone will eventually be drowning in memes.

Of course, I am well aware that this phenomenon is by no means specific to atheists. I recently joined a MeWe group focused on horror movies. To my dismay, I quickly discovered that it was nothing but people sharing movie posters, gifs, and memes. There was no other content.

I think there are two issues here worth nothing. The first is that the constant sharing of image-based memes strikes me as incredibly lazy. It requires no thought, and I imagine that's why it is as popular as it is. Someone gets to feel like they are making a contribution without actually making one. It is almost as if the mindless sharing of image-based memes is the secular version of prayer! The second issue is that it becomes incredibly repetitive because the same memes are shared over and over again. 99.9% of those who share memes did not create the memes they are sharing, and there are only so many to go around. So it isn't just that little of value is being contributed; it is that the same things with little value are showing up over and over again.

What to do about it? It depends on the platform and what one is trying to accomplish by using it. I tend to unfollow people who do little more than share image-based memes on Twitter. I don't use Facebook often enough for it to bother me much there. I have found that I am using Minds somewhat less than I once was because of it, and I've had to tweak my MeWe settings to prevent people from sharing these memes in the group I created for this blog.

The challenge, at least for bloggers, is that it is painfully clear that image-based memes are what people want. If you share 10 posts you've written and one image-based meme, I can pretty much guarantee you that the meme will generate more interaction (e.g., likes, favorites, shares, comments) than all of your posts combined, although the difference can vary quite a bit depending on which platform we're talking about. It is depressing, and I find it tough not to see it as more evidence of a "dumbing down" of our culture even though I am not sure that's fair.