I could not help but laugh at his love letter, which opened with “I’ll tell you something that you should hear. Female meme creators and female comedians generally are unattractive and unappealing.” Someone had taken time out of their day to lecture a stranger (in 800 words no less!) on female meme makers. The highlight of this academic thesis on comedy was, “You should capitalize on your looks more. Unless you’re the typical female who plays up their looks deceivingly online, Lol.”
In a place where“tits or GTFO” is a common mantra, this unwarranted message from the internet netherworld was relatively mild. Notwithstanding, I saw how such remarks could easily discourage someone from continuing to post online, especially to the degree that I have on our school’s meme page.
One could say I stumbled into memeology. In high school my friends and I often hosted comedy roasts of each other, which took place in a different house every week. I was usually responsible for making a slideshow filled to the brim with cheap shots and memes. Even today, we still enjoy making memes of each other. That was simply the beginning of a long, memey career.
When I discovered that UC Berkeley had a meme page, I felt compelled to participate. Memes are hilarious, low-effort and a fun, unconventional way to connect with the campus community-at-large. Upon posting my own meme creations nearly every day I eventually joined my friends in moderating the Facebook group.
Life soon became a meme when peers in class and at parties began recognizing me by name. The entry of my internet personality into the real world never ceases to make me laugh. I often joke to my friends that being known for memes is a sign that I have hit a record low. This miniscule level of notoriety that a little group called UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens has given me has proven to be an interesting experience.
For someone who enjoys making memes, I surprisingly do not venture into the wide expanse of the internet regularly. Thus, I did not realize the scale of offense that floods this space. One would expect that the college students would be above informing someone that they want to insert their genitalia in their butt, nose, ears or wherever else. Alas, many are not. The remarks rarely rise above this level of thinking. As the collective IQ of people who do nothing but insult online likely does not rise above room temperature, I guess I should not expect more.
Luckily, because the platform I am using is primarily Facebook, these occurrences are not a part of my everyday reality. Anonymity is challenging to maintain on a site like Facebook that requires substantial personal information. It appears that people are less inclined to be nasty on Facebook because their name is attached to everything that they say. That does not stop everyone, but it likely deters most.
Spineless people need that veil of anonymity when they disrespect someone online. If they were not afraid, they would approach me in real life to make comments about my humor, breasts, beliefs or whatever else. I confronted one of these jokers on campus for saying derogatory things to my friend. Flustered, he ran away without looking anyone in the eye.
The guy who sped away was an absolute invertebrate without a keyboard in hand. Once I realized this, words from detractors no longer produced any lasting effects, not even minor annoyance. I have learned to dismiss such comments, no matter how demeaning. If they cannot express these thoughts directly to me, then they are just picture elements on a computer screen.
Some may argue that the solution to this is is to log off the “interwebz.” I disagree. Seeing my love for writing and comedy, my father continually reminded me throughout my upbringing to keep writing, despite the internet troll maelstrom that may come my way. We often joke over the phone about the occasional idiocy and he never fails to make sure that I keep going. In that counsel I trust.
This is advice I would give to anybody with similar passions. As someone with an undying fondness for writing, I understand that words can be exceptionally powerful. Words to solely demean or insult should however, mean absolutely nothing. As much as I love language and the words within it, no word could ever make me discontinue the things I love to do. I will never stop writing or creating, and neither should anyone else.
Karina Pauletti writes the Thursday column on media discourse. Contact her at [email protected].