The Truth About Memes

In the essay “To Meme or not to Meme”, Maya Walker speaks upon the harsh reality of depression and suicide, and her own experience with them. Mental illnesses can stem from many different things. However, in Maya’s case, her depression came from social media- memes, in particular. A meme is a picture, commonly shared on social media, that is funny, relatable, or brings someone joy. In the past several years, accounts have started to make light of depression by making memes about them. She goes into great detail explaining how the severity and importance of these illnesses is made fun of and diminished on different internet platforms. People will say “kill me” or “this makes me want to die”, with the drop of a hat, making it seem like it’s a laughing matter. Maya does a very good job explaining how these issues need more attention, and not in the light that she speaks about. By telling a personal story and giving reasons that are backed up by her own life, she grasps the audience’s attention and seemingly forces them to believe what she is saying.  This essay does a great job of portraying the importance of depression and suicide, and Maya gives sufficient evidence that help support her own story. An example of when she uses this evidence is when she says “According to Loughborough University, the practice of negative meme-sharing may even be “indicative of a larger apathy” (Casey et al, 2018), which suggests underlying issues more significant than “just a joke” from both the producer and the consumer.” Maya is straightforward with saying that there is fact based evidence that these memes are downplaying the significance of suicide. 

Another element that stuck out in her essay was Maya’s genuine concern for the younger generation that might be seeing these memes. What if a child with a family history of depression sees them, and begins to compress their own feelings? In her paper, she quotes “‘Direct and indirect exposure to suicidal behavior has been shown to precede an increase in suicidal behavior in persons at risk for suicide, especially in adolescents and young adults’”. This fact from the United States Department of Health and Human Services is perfectly placed with her argument that young adults are at risk. By seeing these memes making a joke out of mental illnesses not only shows them that people their age are depressed, but that their depression is something to push aside, or laugh at.  She then goes on to say that we live in an unfortunate time where the internet is a place to go for people to escape.

“We’re not in Wilmington Anymore”

Growing up in a materialistic world like we live in today, many adolescents are judged by how much money they have, how big their house is, or what kind of clothes they wear. These types of lifestyles are flaunted and normalized on social media, and it’s hard to not get caught up in the money-oriented whirlwind that is our society. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by this as I grew and matured, making me think that having ‘stuff” to show off was the way to make friends, and ultimately be happy.  It wasn’t until I went on a vacation with my family to South Africa and saw how people with nothing but the clothes on their backs live happily, that my view on my own life changed. Witnessing the genuine joy everyone felt from being with the people they loved and creating memories helped me put everything into perspective. Having designer clothes and other material items isn’t the secret to lifelong happiness; it’s understanding that you’re only given one life, and if you spend it worrying about how other people look at you, you will never have joy that lasts.

When we arrived at the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, I was shocked by the poor, dirty, and underdeveloped land that sat before my eyes. As I tried to get my bearings, one question stuck out in my mind; “How do people live like this?”. It was hard for me, coming from a nice area of Delaware, to understand how the people could live their lives in a place with so little.  As we made the long drive to a remote village, the landscape around me seemed to get more impoverished with every hour that went by. Many people lived in shacks with tin roofs, while others struggled to find a place to sleep at night. I began to get an uneasy, unsafe feeling, having never been exposed to this kind of place before. 

After what seemed like hours of driving, we pulled off of the road and entered into a one-story building in the middle of the red earth. The building was an elementary school for children whose families don’t have enough money to pay for anything for a better education. We spent the day talking with the teachers, playing with the children, and suddenly, the uncomfortable feeling I had faded away. The children and adults alike didn’t care about what we were wearing or where we came from. They were filled with excitement from having people to talk to and spend time with. Being at the school was the most rewarding experience of my life because it taught me everything I know today about true happiness.