Internet Influence and Meme Culture

Today’s society, and more specifically today’s youth, is driven by internet culture. The internet is a major asset to billions of people worldwide, serving as an instantaneous way to communicate and share news or ideas. The perks of the internet are endless; however, there are also quite a few downsides to internet sharing that can mislead people who are oblivious to what they are reading. While there are many reliable internet sources, there are also many sources that are fake and not credible and intentionally published purely to mislead and push an alternative agenda. Because of these traps, internet readers should take any information they stumble across with a grain of salt.

With social media platforms like Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Facebook, photos and videos can be spread at an extremely fast rate — often within a matter of hours. This nearly instantaneous sharing makes everything put on the internet permanent. This past week Collegiate hosted a guest, Katie Greer, to speak with students, faculty, and parents about topics surrounding safe usage of social media. 

Photo by: Ibrahim.ID

Image credit: Ibrahim.ID

She emphasizes that tweets, posts, and videos are all accessible to anyone once they are posted on these social media platforms. Embarrassing photos or videos often surface, like the one showing Miami Dolphins lineman Laremy Tunsil smoking marijuana by way of a gas mask. This video surfaced the night of the 2016 NFL draft, affecting his draft prospects. There was also a similar story that took place in Lakeland, Florida back in October 2015. A woman was driving under the influence and was livestreaming a video while she was behind the wheel of her vehicle. She was later found and arrested, exemplifying how quickly police can identify and track someone down from a simple video.

The internet also has an extremely satirical side to it that is strictly for entertainment, including what some people call “meme” culture. Merriam-Webster defines meme as: “a) an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from one person to another in a culture, and b) an amusing or interesting picture, video, etc., that is spread widely through the internet.” Memes offer an escape from the darkness of internet. The Harambe meme is one that has swept the internet all summer and still continues now as we approach fall. For those who don’t know, Harambe was a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, and he was recently killed after a young child fell into his enclosure. The meme erupted last spring and has continued to rule social media for months. Memes have brought attention to incidents that would typically be forgotten or even go virtually unknown. The death of Harambe would have gained far less publicity if the internet hadn’t gotten hold of the story. The Cincinnati Zoo also received numerous tweets and Facebook posts from people who disagreed with their decision to kill the gorilla. This example proves just how powerful the internet is and the effect that it can have on some of the smallest incidents.

harambe

Harambe in 2011. Photo credit: Mark Dumont via Wikimedia Commons.

The Harambe meme is a good indicator of the power that the internet has. Millions of people have liked and/or shared Harambe memes and the influence that these digital images have had on people is astounding. It seems as if the whole internet has suddenly forgotten the circumstances under which Harambe was killed. It seems that many people have forgotten that a three-year-old boy’s life was at risk, and had zoo officials not stepped in, that boy’s life could have ended tragically on that May afternoon. The mother of the three-year-old boy does indeed need to answer some tough questions regarding how her child was able to make it inside of the gorilla enclosure. The Cincinnati Zoo received an immense amount of hatred for its decision to kill Harambe; however, they made a decision in the heat of the moment, and they were smart to put the young boy’s life first.  

The internet can also be incredibly deceitful. There are a large number of web pages that rely on user contributions that are often unmonitored. This means that people can post and write about things that they have little or no knowledge about, and the reader of the article or webpage could very easily miss key information about the author of what they read. A prime example of a deceitful web page is Martinlutherking.org. This website’s domain seems like it would be credible; however, if you consciously read through some of the tabs and if you do some research on who own and runs the domain, you will find that the site is actually run by Stormfront, a white supremacist group. The scary thing is that this deception is all over the internet and can easily be stumbled across if not cautious.

About the author

Senior at Collegiate School