You can’t point your face at a computer screen these days without seeing “memes” by the truckload. Facebook is lousy with them.
So, what is a meme? For the uninitiated, it’s a computer-age informational travesty — usually from an unknown source and bereft of facts, supporting evidence or anything remotely close to rudimentary logic. Imagine talk radio in visual form.
In a more literal sense, a Facebook meme is a picture, dressed up with a humorous caption, a pithy observation or an endless blur of barely comprehensible statistics that’s supposed to provide bold, insightful commentary on the news of the day.
Why is this important? Because the more sluggish specimens among us embrace, absorb and repeat these cyber gems, ad nauseam. Especially the fine folks in the “I’ll-Swallow-Anything-That-Reaffirms-My-Existing-Views” camp. Any meme, no matter how stunningly idiotic, seems to resonate with the people predisposed to agree with it.
No joke: I’ve seen people cite memes as “evidence” to back up some crackpot political theory. That picture of Kermit the Frog would never lie.
And these things are more popular than oxygen. People see one they like and they have to repost it for every living creature right down to the plant kingdom. We all have a friend or two, or 10, who hasn’t had an original thought since birth. So in lieu of thinking, they’ll repost anything clever anyone else ever said.
There’s precedent for this. In pre-Facebook days, maybe you were on the receiving end of endless emails that sported the classic “FW:FW:FW:FW” thingy in the subject line, indicating a message that’s been making the rounds since Gutenberg.
And now, the obligatory disclaimer: of course, there are harmless, humorous memes aplenty written and enjoyed by upright, clean-living citizens. If you’re in that camp, more power to you.
My beef is with the memes that magically transport you to an alternate reality — where two plus two equals five, where opinions are facts, and facts are opinions.
So, how do you know you have a bad meme? The warning signs:
Misspellings galore. Last time I checked, “the” was still spelled T-H-E. Accept no substitutes.
Fuzzy math that doesn’t quite add up. When the number of unemployed cited is greater than the current population of the United States, don’t go forwarding the meme to every yahoo with a functioning brain stem.
If there is a source, beware. It might take you into a rabbit hole of circular reasoning. The source could be the Coalition Alliance Council. Look it up, and it cites the Alliance Council Coalition. That source links you to the Council Coalition Alliance, which takes you back to the Coalition Alliance Council.
If you must comment on this drivel, here are a few suggested responses:
“Baa baa baa.” This emphasizes your sheep-like acceptance of anything you find online.
“Me likey meme.” A succinct endorsement spiritually compatible with the intellectual level of the meme itself. On the downside, the two-syllable word “likey” might confuse and frighten the monosyllabic Facebook aficionado.
“Thoughts & prayers.” It’s not really meme-related, but it does seem like the all-purpose Facebook comment.
Instead of the meme as your “go-to” news source, try these more reliable alternatives:
Your cousin who falls down a lot.
The comments section of any YouTube video.
Your neighborhood’s crazy cat lady.
Your neighborhood’s non-crazy cat lady.
What your sister-in-law’s mailman’s cousin’s dentist overheard in the express lane checkout at Shirt Circus.
Please, do your fellow hominids a favor. Invest four seconds and fact-check some of this claptrap before sharing it with planet Earth. If you don’t know snopes.com, get familiar with it.
I know we’re all busy, and maybe you think you have better ways to spend four seconds. You could brush one tooth, or change socks, or read (make that savor) today’s Beetle Bailey.
Take the time. Check the facts. Make America less stupid.
Toby Gibbs of Lexington is a community columnist. Email him at email@example.com.