What’s in a meme: That which we call funny and irreverent

What is a meme? Dictionary.com defines it as “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.” Memes mean a lot to the millennial generation. We screen-shot them, text them to friends, show them to parents who are often confused by them. Games have been created about them, and there is even a class offered at UC Santa Barbara that explores “the power and meaning of memes in today’s digital culture.” Memes are icons and labels that we use to convey a message–often a humorous one– that have underlying messages.


This meme, courtesy of the Instagram account bonkers4memes, features the beloved character Kirby from the popular video game of the early ‘90s. Kirby’s popularity grew when it was featured in Super Smash Brothers–a game that pits multiple players against each other where only one person wins, much like Mortal Kombat. The header for this meme states “My only three moods,” a call to the simplicity of life in our complicated world. However, the messages within are anything but.

“I want kiss,” can come to represent the desire for millennials to connect with someone on an intimate level. A recent article ran in The Atlantic that talked of a “sex recession,” and how young adults have “dysfunctional relationships… with [their] phones and social media, to the detriment of our relationships with humans.” But I do not wholly agree with this statement. Young adults today are facing many more obstacles than their parents have. College weighs heavy on the minds of many young adults, as well as the economic burden that usually follows. Having a working class job also carries with it a stigma in today’s society, where many think of the day laborer as someone who could not cut it in university. Debt and the anxiety of fitting into a culture that demands an unrealistic goal weighs heavy on the minds of many millennials today. When you have a degree–that society has loudly expressed you need–that comes with an average economic burden of $37,172, this can put seeking for intimate relationships aside. Also unrealistic representations of beauty plague the internet, but that is for another post. I think the next frame can help explain some of the shortfalls in the sex lives of the millennial generation.

“I want to dead.” A recent report done by Blue Cross and Blue Shield found that from 2013 to 2016 diagnoses of major depression has risen 47% for millennials. Whether cell phone usage, or dating apps are contributing to this growth is unknown, but what is known is that economic burdens and societal pressures are cause for concern. Depression is a major problem for society with Mental Health America stating that it plagues nearly 44 million Americans. It often goes unspoken and many have a hard time finding treatment. MHA’s report also found that “9 million adults reported having an unmet need” for mental health services; as well as a shortfall of mental health professionals.

“I want to get this fresh baked bread.”  According to a study done by the Organic Trade Association, 52 percent of millennials parents buy organic foods, as compared to 35 percent for Gen. X and 14 percent for the Baby Boomers. Fresh ingredients and sustainably raised meats and vegetables are a staple for many millennial diets. But this line could also be referring to alternative ways of making money. “Dough,” “bread,” “skrilla” are all terms used for money. Millennials have created platforms such as Facebook and Spotify–both billion dollar companies. Facebook has generated an immense amount of jobs and has also helped transform the advertising industry. Spotify has also played an integral part for new artists, giving them a platform to reach tens of millions of listeners.

When it comes down to it, this meme speaks a lot to the culture and ethos of the millennial generation. When the author states that these are his three only moods, I think that it resonates with many.

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