Much of the Internet responded to the Iran airstrike earlier this month through memes and jokes. What does this say about the way our generation has learned to react to the world around us?
This was the comforting hashtag that I found when I opened Twitter on one of the first days of the month. What a great way to start off the new year and decade, right? Upon closer inspection, though, I found that despite the horrifying hashtag name, most of the posts under the hashtag were just meme after meme.
Here’s the context: on January 3, an American drone targeted and killed Iranian major general Qasim Soleimani near the Baghdad International Airport. This instantly heightened tensions between Iran and the United States, and the international community feared that it would escalate to a more serious situation.
Meanwhile, though, the Internet was escalating the situation in an entirely different direction: thousands of tweets poured online in which people posted increasingly creative memes regarding the situation potentially escalating into a third world war. One Twitter user under the username @NinjaGamerBoss posted a viral picture of a Snapchat map with users’ locations all showing up in Iran, with the caption “Snap maps looking like this after we get drafted for World War 3.” Others posted various videos of what their response would be if they were to be drafted for World War 3..
While the chances of a third world war actually occurring due to the airstrike were low, the Internet wasted no time in getting the hashtag to trending. This led to a mixed response from users. While many people found the memes entertaining—the most popular ones gained nearly 100,000 likes—others found them to be a clear display of insensitivity and privilege. One Twitter user under the username of @Amy_Fallas expressed, “I’m usually all about memes and comedic relief, but literally millions of lives are at risk, so please stop with your World War  jokes. If you lived in a war zone or had family and friends who lived under these conditions, you would not be making light of the current situation.” However, many of those who actively engaged in posting the memes explained that the memes were a way to cope with the harrowing news headlines.
While both sides make valid points, it’s interesting to note the Internet generation’s tendency to turn to memes and online jokes as a way to react to significant events in our lives. It makes sense—memes are easily digestible bits of information that audiences can view and understand within seconds, as opposed to longer articles. Yet, it also sheds some light on the role of humor in the way we react to things. In recent years, many otherwise harrowing world events have seen responses that bordered between humor and distress, and as memes have skyrocketed in popularity with the advancement of the Internet, it seems only fitting that the two have joined together to form such memes regarding serious topics. At the core, this phenomenon reveals the new way in which our generation has developed a way to respond to the world around us, and as the Internet continues to expand, the role of memes will more than likely proliferate as well in its role as a part of popular culture.
So no, you’re not getting drafted. But that joke about a recent event? Yeah, you can count on that to be in a Twitter draft, ready for its author to send it out to the world and make it the next viral meme.