So…I’ve had enough with the insulting memes.
You know the ones. The clever, one or two sentence image you see on your social media, designed to offend one crowd and give a “Hell, yeah!” to another.
I’m not talking about one particular post, because this form of bullying comes in all forms and against all groups. Yes, bullying. If you’ve ever posted something like this (and I’m pretty sure I have too), you probably think that ‘bullying’ is a strong word choice. In that case, let’s take it apart and discuss.
Respect2all.org defines verbal bullying as “any bullying that is done by speaking. Calling names, spreading rumors, threatening somebody, and making fun of others are all forms of verbal bullying.”
Example 1: I’m going to make up my own saying here, but it’s pretty close to what I’ve seen on FB: “I’m happy with the way I look. My man likes my curves. Take that, skinny b*tches.”
Okay, great. You like the way you look, and so does your significant other. That’s wonderful! But why insult a group of people (in this case, skinny people)? Why not just lift yourself up without stepping on the heads of others?
We are struggling for superiority in this day and age, garnering support from our peers, but this is the wrong way to do it.
Example 2: I happen to hate the taste of watermelons, or any melon for that matter. I’m not going to create a meme that says, “I don’t eat watermelons, because I’m not a stupid idiot.” (Now watch someone actually creates this meme. Sigh.)
Point is, I have every right to say I hate watermelons, but I am not about to insult people who do love them. Eating watermelons makes some people happy, and although it won’t solve all of anyone’s problems, it creates a little bit of joy for them, and if they can consume it and be happier for it, then who am I to try to make them feel awful for liking what they like?
Now, I do technically have the right to insult anybody who loves it. People talk about the freedom of speech, but not everyone truly understands what it means.
Freedom of speech is in our Bill of Rights, which is a fancy way of referring to the first ten amendments of the Constitution. Amendments are basically our way of crossing out and adding things to the Constitution. When I say that I have the freedom of speech, that means that if I say, type, or in any way indicate that people who love watermelon are all morons who have only three brain cells, I would not be imprisoned for this. The FBI or even the local authorities will not hunt me down or put me on the most wanted list for making this statement.
The First Amendment also refers to other things, such as the right to assemble and so on. I’m obviously simplifying it for the purposes of this essay.
HOWEVER…the First Amendment in no way guarantees that everyone will love us for what we say. It doesn’t promise some kind of immunity from being shunned or ostracized by others. Nor does it promise us that we won’t lose our jobs. This is why, if I work for a big-name company and I publicly insult an entire race or religious group, I can sure as hell be fired for it, because said company will not want to keep such a person on their payroll.
Also, the group we insult has the right to fire back and say whatever they want in return. This is how it happens, how social media gets filled with passive-aggressive shots at other groups, whether it’s slamming people who like video games or people who post pictures of their children OR people who post pics of the dinner they’re proud they made. Sadly, the list goes on and on. And I for one have had enough.
I encourage you to speak your mind. Always respect yourself. Just please, respect other people as well. If you hate eating green apples, that’s cool. Just remember that if you proclaim that anyone who loves green apples obviously don’t have a good education, you will eventually meet someone who eats a green apple every day, and they will be smart, real people, people with feelings that get hurt. They care for their families, work, go to school, or go to the grocery. They take the bus and walk their dogs. They’re normal, good people, and to say that all people of any one specific group are out of touch or immature, well, that’s shooting yourself in the foot. You don’t actually know every single person who loves green apples, and therefore you are unable to accurately make such an extreme blanket statement.
Okay, so when you said that all people who read books are boring, you didn’t mean that literally – it’s just something people say, right? Here’s a reality check, though; Words can hurt. That’s why our mothers told us to watch what we say, because we’re billions of beings sharing this tiny sphere that’s located somewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy. There are enough awful things happening everywhere, things people are doing to kill others.
I understand it’s dramatic to compare one meme to wars and senseless shootings, but they really are connected. When we create or share these hurtful quotes, we’re perpetuating this ideology that it’s okay to slam other people… as long as we can get approval from our friends or total strangers. In case you hadn’t guessed it, this is not okay with me, because guess what? By creating these unofficial online cliques, we are making even more people feel as if they don’t belong, and while arguably that isn’t our problem, why in the world would we purposely create even more lines that divide us?
I’m not talking about healthy competitive sports, so let’s not make that assumption. I’m writing very specifically about unnecessary slander, and honestly, these are things that we probably don’t think twice about before posting and sharing. Maybe you don’t REALLY think all cat-lovers are jerks; you were just thinking about your next-door neighbor when you laughed at that post and shared it.
Just do me a favor, if you would. Think one more time and read that funny or clever meme carefully before you share it. That’s all. If even one hurtful feeling could be spared, then it’d be worth it.