I am a millennial and I love a good meme as much as the next person. I even use them occasionally in social-media to get a political point across to my ‘friends.” But recently, I have grown increasingly concerned that we are losing the intellectual capacity to comprehend information or argue in any meaningful way outside of what is essentially a single-framed comic strip. This concern went into full-fledged red-alert mode when more and more of my social-media friends began sharing Q-Anon-based memes and bragging about the amount of research they have done since joining Q. And by research, they mean discovering memes and watching five minute YouTube clips explaining where the information in the meme came from and why the meme makes sense.
What Q-members have not done is any form of real research. They have not checked the sources of the information or intentionally looked for sources that may contradict the words of Q. All they have done is listen to someone who speaks in an articulate and intelligent manner connect dots that cannot actually be connected, but because they spoke in an intelligent manner, they assume that the words of ‘Q’ must be true.
Q-members’ inability or unwillingness to perform any actual research, their immediate dismissal of any information that contradicts Q, their lack of critical thinking skills, not to mention their simple lack knowledge of how to use Google, is truly terrifying. These people will buy anything that is sold to them.
But right-wing-nut-job Q-members are not the only people communicating in memespeak. Hell, even some of my students have quoted information in their papers about different sociological topics that came not from the New York Times or peer-reviewed journals, but memes.
I have had to place a bright red ‘F’ on student’s papers because they quoted memes.
Memes can be funny, informative, and great tools in social-media arguments. But they are also a reflection of our intellectual capacity and laziness as Americans. When I ask my students to use three peer-reviewed sources and quote them in a way that shows comprehension, you can see their hearts sink. When I send a New York Times article or a peer-reviewed source to one of my Q friends, they never even read them. It is not just that they hate the source, but they lack the ability to consume that much information in a single setting.
The great fall of America will not come from economic inequality or bigotry, but from our devolution from thinking beings – homo sapiens – to Neanderthals who take memes at face value. When we have totally lost the ability to consume information that comes in larger than two-sentence bites, we can be led around by the noses. Worse yet, we cannot expect to solve the complex problems that inevitably arise in a human society.
We are living on the verge of Idiocracy. Welcome to the United States of memes, All hail President Comacho.