Internet Comedy is absurdist, and that’s its charm

Memes are an oasis for teens to express and grapple with all of the outrageous feelings this world has created for us.


by Faith Andrews-O'Neal, Writer

The other day, I tried to explain stock photo memes to my mom. “It’s simple,” I said, trying to hold in my laughter from the utter confusion on her face. “I know you know what stock photos are; you just badly edit in arial font captions, and that’s the meme.” By the time I was done, I was hysterically laughing (as is my habit when talking about memes), and she was even more confused, and a little concerned.

I think that’s the charm of internet comedy; it makes no sense at times, but then again, nothing else does. At a time where our president is bragging about having a bigger nuclear bomb button than Kim Jong-Un, we’re past the point of sense. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or unable to articulate all of your feelings in this chaos, and that’s where memes come in.

As with many others, 2017 was a tumultuous year for me. It often felt like, as a young person, my perspective was invalidated or not well articulated, even by those older than me who shared my same views. I felt like there was a massive pressure to always be eloquent and speak my thoughts in a mature, thought-out way so that I was on-par with social activists I see in the media. I felt like the only way for my opinions, or ideas to be seen as valid was to change the way I communicate about social issues, to “fit in” with those older than me. Instead of seeing the importance of my perspective, I conformed to what I thought would make myself legitimate. I was willing to lose my voice just so it would be heard.

In a year such as this one, trying to find a space to be yourself is so important. That’s where memes came in for me. They appeal to younger audiences because of their simplicity. There is a comfort in knowing that around the world, people my age are stressing about and struggling with the same things I am, and finding joy in the same things as well. It’s reassuring to see a teenage girl in Europe grappling with articulating the same opinions on the issues we both can see in the world around us. Memes are a little oasis from the barrage of bad news that seems to constantly inundate us on the internet.

If I send my friend a ridiculous meme on Instagram, there’s no need to act more mature or less confused than I am about all that’s happening around me. Even though they often poke fun of real-world issues, memes provide a way to articulate all that I felt about the world around me, whether it be school, or friends or even myself, in a funny and relatable way.

I think that’s why my generation has found such comfort in sites like Instagram or Twitter. They give us a voice, one that’s silly and hyperbolic but somehow perfectly dictates the feelings I have on a day to day basis. They’re hilarious and outrageous and not taken seriously and if that doesn’t sum up what it means to be a teen in America right now, I don’t know what does.  It is chaotic, and nonsensical, and hilarious in its cacophony, and that’s why I love them.

There is a looming threat of nuclear war, a petulant toddler as president, and a math test next week. Just thinking about all of this can be incredibly overwhelming, and any form of solace from that is beyond welcome to me.