April 13, 2012 at 1:54 am

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Memes

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Jasper Adam created the GSA MEMES facebook group one day because he was bored.  He invited a few friends and posted some memes* that joked about GSA.  “I’ve always kind of wanted to poke fun and hear people’s sense of humor about the school,” explained Jasper.  “It was just gonna be our page to make fun of GSA.”  Within a day, the group had over 100 members, and countless memes.  Jasper closed the group so that only members could see its content, and the meme party commenced.  For a week it was the place to be.

The meme page at the height of its popularity was a  free-for-all of meme- making fun.  What was so thrilling about it was its lack of rules, no adult presence hovering and killing the buzz.  “Facebook is essentially like Russia,” said Mr. Perkinson when asked about the school’s ability to monitor what its students say about GSA online. “It’s lawless.”  Which is true, and there’s a fine line between funny and mean when it comes to the memes, and making jokes about teachers is considered fair game.  There’s a sort of unsaid code of conduct among young people that applies both in the cafeteria and online: it’s not cool to act like anybody’s mom.  While students generally stand up for each other, when kids make jokes about their teachers it’s considered fair game: maybe because we assume that adults, especially teachers, have thick skins; they are also the people in our lives who give us the most work to do.  It becomes an awkward dilemma on the meme page, where, inevitably, teachers become the butt of jokes.  On the page it was not uncommon for memers to come to the defense of a peer when a joke was made at their expense; but there was never any criticism of memes that targeted teachers.  When a student encounters a meme that gives him pause, he… keeps scrolling. There is not yet a “dislike” button on facebook. Nobody is policing the page.

Of course, if anybody is in the position to police the group, it’s Jasper, the administrator.  He has the power to delete memes.  And he does.  “If there are bad memes, I take them off because they’re not funny,” he says, but when asked if he would delete a mean or offensive meme, he said that, if it were funny enough, he would not.  It’s quality control.  “I’m like the Julian Assange of GSA,” he says (interpret that as you will).  Another student added that it depends on the number of “likes” a meme has; if 40 of your friends like a meme, it becomes that much harder to express your disapproval.  For most kids it is too easy to simply do nothing at all.  Active facebookers are flooded with information that they don’t want every time they log in; rather than become involved and make a fuss about other people’s opinions and crass comments, they choose to ignore them.  Is facebook turning us all  into bystanders?

Perkinson says that it’s important to come to school with a sense of humor, but suggests that kids still have to learn to govern themselves.  His advice to all of us is to “be kind, think of others, be good, and do good.”

Most of the time, however, the memes were positive.  It was fun to laugh with friends about Perkinson’s latest metaphor, or the way Mr. Gilden’s math problems are always about quaggas.  Most of the memes are innocent jibes about homework and going to the bathroom without signing out (gasp).  Though the page has proved faddish and short-lived, it has made its members feel special about their school, and has created some good memeories.  This reporter believes that a good meme is a beautiful thing.   The meme page, for the most part, has been a force of good, because it has made us laugh out loud.  We hope the memes featured in this article will make you LOL too.

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