At this point in the New Media Age, there are so many internet memes that they could fill an entire encyclopedia. In fact, they do. Know Your Meme organizes and explains all current internet memes in one convenient website. For those of you who do not know what a meme is (although I’m sure you’ve seen at least one), Urban Dictionary defines it as “a word, phrase, expression, iconic imagery or recognizable reference popularized amongst online communities such as on forums or in online games.”
Internet memes communicate various traits about our culture, and are usually intended to be humorous. Sometimes, they are also satirical – using humor to point out a flaw in our society. Although the text of an internet meme is very brief, they are still effective forms of communication in the New Media Age. Everything we read is brief, and that’s the way we like it. Consequently, memes are actually perfect for sending a message to people of the 21st century since they are so short and to the point.
My favorite satirical meme is First World Problems (see also: White Whine). There are images, screenshots of Facebook statuses, and Twitter “hashtags” for so-called “first world problems.” People even submit their own first world problems to websites for publication.
One 17-year-old boy, Zach Katz, wrote a First World Problems Rap. The video has over 1.4 million views on YouTube! Although most comments were in favor of the video, some users posted comments like “1%” and “Oh my God, why did you flush a dollar down the toilet!?”
I can only speculate on Zach’s intention with the video, but his “About Me” section on YouTube says he makes parodies (among other things). With this in mind, I’m sure videos like the First World Problems Rap are expected to get negative comments like the ones above – comments from people who see the irony, but aren’t happy about it.
Internet memes are not exactly the best form of satire if you are looking for action, though. They tend to get exclusively verbal responses. Although some of the responses are from people who recognize the problems, most do not seem to. The majority of feedback for internet memes, even satirical ones, still just focuses on the joke aspect, and not the social (or political, etc.) message.
It seems that most people enjoy satirical internet memes as a way to poke fun at themselves. They hear about something like First World Problems and instead of seeing the big picture, they take the joke and keep using it. People tweet things like “Whenever I go to the Apple Store, I have nothing to do because I already own all their devices. #FirstWorldProblems.” If the internet memes were effective in bringing about change through satire, people would instead think how lucky they are to own even one pricey Apple device. But unfortunately the former response is far more common. I searched “first world problems” on Twitter and in just one minute, 5 new tweets with the hashtag “first world problems” appeared. In five minutes, there were 20 new tweets. After ten minutes, there were 40 new tweets on the topic. #Pathetic
Personally, I am a rather cynical person, but especially so when it comes to the state of the world, primarily in America. For this reason, I can see something like First World Problems as more sarcastic and satirical than funny. I do appreciate my material things. When I hear myself say something that might be a “first world problem,” I stop and tell myself I’m being ridiculous instead of tweeting about it.
Next time you see a satirical internet meme, try to appreciate the larger message that it is trying to point out by using humor, rather than for the purpose of humor alone.
[Lilly is a freshmen Communication Studies major and contributing writer to our Department blog. – Sandy]
 I can’t figure out why so many people would want to post something that makes them look ungrateful and whiney. Sometimes, if we are embarrassed about something, we try to make fun of ourselves before other people do so it seems like we don’t care as much.
 Comments pointing out the actual problem must be very rare, or at least they are not on the sites where people post first world problems. Most comments just say something like, “This is hilarious!” But mention no further insight such as “Why do we think these things are real problems!?”