Meme culture and the Ukrainian crisis

Freshman English student Jack Burch and freshman Theology student Francis Chang study in the library and smile at their phones. Photo by Rosa Venditti.

Memes have once again taken the internet by storm as the situation in Ukraine unfolds, and questions arise as to how we should respond to them.

Many of these memes focus on the possible outcomes of the war, the possibility of American citizens being drafted, and the announcement of World War III.

These memes show the stark generational difference in dealing with a dire situation. I believe the main reasons behind this are a lack of sensitivity and understanding and an inability to talk seriously about these types of situations.

First-year education student Miriam Skinner believes that today “people are soft” and nowadays “people make jokes because they don’t understand a situation.” It would certainly make sense because most citizens of the new generation do not remember the horrors of the great wars and even more recent wars such as Vietnam.

Gen Z feels disillusioned with the frightening possibility of another great war, especially the possibility of being drafted. The new generation has no possibility of having to serve in another great war, because they never had to in the first place. Because this generation doesn’t know how to deal with such a situation, they create memes to cope, trying to laugh rather than cry when faced with such a dire situation.

Some of these memes, for reference, describe how forces – even soldiers – make light of the situation and don’t take it seriously, even though they may very well be engaged in a full-fledged war.

Fernando Vian, a first-year history student, believes that the reason these soldiers don’t seem to take things seriously on camera may be because “the war has gotten so bad, it’s a way to in the face of their suffering”. This reaction to war may very well be motivated by fear, but a kind of fear that cannot be shared by those on the ground.

A certain meme that depicts a Ukrainian farmer jokingly asking Russian soldiers if they want help towing their tank – eliciting heartfelt laughter from both – with his tractor brings to life both sides’ desire to prevent the conflict from escalating. lead to war; it also sends the message that both countries want to avoid such a devastating conflict – despite Putin’s desires to accomplish his agenda. Thus, memes are used either as a coping mechanism against heartbreaking reality or as a way to shed light on what both parties really hope the outcome will be.

I believe that memes that illuminate the situation and respectfully show each side’s desire to avoid war may be needed to raise awareness of the possible horrors to come. They are alerting the huge amount of people on social media to the danger ahead, which motivates them to campaign for peace and spread this message to others.

Even memes that are insensitive to the situation show the potentially horrifying results – in a humorous setting – this can also serve as a wake-up call for many, serving as a warning for the future.

Christi C. Elwood