OPINION: Current meme trends tend to desensitize and spread rumors about real current events

With recent tension between the U.S. and Iran, many rumors about an upcoming “World War Three” have emerged. Many teens on various social media platforms are speculating about what the tension means for the country, and of course, the hypothetical event has been made into countless memes.

The “meme-ification” of current events can be witnessed on social media around many kinds of topics, heavy or not. Memes make fun of events, spreading false information to the public and often desensitizing serious issues.

According to the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of young adults use social media actively as of 2019. Memes about current events are usually found on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram whose primary audiences are young adults, many of whom use social media for news.

Memes cannot be fact-checked, so it is hard for people to distinguish between real information and false ideas. For example, when a user sees a meme about “World War Three,” they might assume it is real without checking other sources first and panic about being drafted. This creates a false reality in which rumors and false information are quickly reposted and spread. In fact, the weekday newsletter The Week assures “that a global conflict is not set to break out imminently, but that ‘a significant Iranian retaliation is to be expected.’” Memes gloss over facts like these and cause a sense of panic and desensitization.

Memes are meant to entertain the public rather than inform it, so their depiction of current events is amusing and light, making them look less significant. For example, there are many altered images of climate activist Greta Thunberg and her expressive speeches about climate change. Such memes are dangerous because they do not show exactly why her speeches are so powerful. Thus, they do not carry the essence of her fight for the betterment of the planet. Instead, they belittle her efforts and desensitize people to the issues of climate change.

Some might argue that memes are a way for current news to reach teenagers and make them aware of issues in the world. However, the information in those memes is often false since the content is exaggerated for entertainment purposes. The information is also biased as it is created by some person on the internet with their own view. This does not let young adults grasp all of the objective facts to make an informed decision.

Current events should be covered by unbiased journalists and agents rather than people on the internet. Memes are not a good way to inform the public about issues because they are a result of people interpreting rumors spread on the internet. Users should make an effort to seek out facts from reliable sources in order to educate themselves about on-going issues.