‘Deal with it’: Memes are Essential Entertainment

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, he intended it to be used for research and long distance communication. What he couldn’t have envisioned: Teens using the web to share videos of spinning gorillas, dancing babies, a fist-pumping toddler, and dogs giving side-eye. In other words, the internet meme.

A meme, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” But some people think of memes as a low form of entertainment, just silly distractions. However, memes are an important form of online communication and essential sources of entertainment that result in a quick chuckle at a time when humor is in short supply.

The pandemic has driven most of our social interactions to digital platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, which are more important than ever to keep up with both friends and family, and to keep us entertained.

“Memes have made quarantine a lot better,” Austin Yang, sophomore, said. “The laughs and good times I get from memes always light up my day.” 

The earliest memes are a 1921 University of Iowa satirical comic, depicting a crudely drawn man, and World War II’s “Kilroy was here.” Simple illustrations and humorous text, to giant letters hovering over a hysterical cat — all are forms of escapism. The escapism of memes causes people to be distracted from a grim reality; they’re entertainment, relief, and humor.

Fort Behavioral Health, a site dedicated to addiction therapy, states, “Everyone utilizes escapist strategies in life, as the harsh realities of life are apparent and permeate the human race. Reading a book, listening to music, and exercising can all be positive forms of escapism in the face of stress.” Memes are a positive form of escapism, good for a quick chuckle every now and then.

And more than ever, people need a good laugh; quarantine has us down and teen depression is at an all-time high, but images of dogs like these cheer us up. Meme accounts on social media bring these silly images of sly dogs, babbling babies, and Rick Astley to anyone with an Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok account. 

The internet started as a way to transmit data around the world, but it has since given us memes, those hilarious pictures that make us, and our friends, and our coworkers laugh.