I’m not a physician nor the son of a physician, but it’s my understanding that checking a person’s pulse gives doctors and nurses a sort of “quick and dirty” look at a person’s overall health. Obviously there are more tests that need to be done after a minor touch of the wrist, but if something’s wrong there, something’s probably wrong everywhere.
The constant barrage of internet memes that we plugged-in post-moderns have at our daily disposal offer us a great opportunity to check the pulse of our culture. Trying to define the idea of meme briefly (it’s a bit difficult to do), “memes” are the little pieces of culture that we pass from person to person. On the web, these tidbits typically hit us in the form of sound bites, jpegs, or video clips that go viral, gaining momentum and evolving along the way as they’re passed on via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (?), etc.
What do we mean by “pulse check”? Take, for example, the Rebecca Black “Friday” debacle. The song was deliciously funny in its 3-minute awfulness. But (and I hate to be “that guy”) don’t you feel a tinge bad for the poor girl? Using this meme as a pulse check for our culture, it is apparent that we can be pretty mean spirited and judgmental, seem to care little for the feelings of others when enough of us is laughing, and have no problem bullying those with even the best intentions. From the insight this meme gives us, our “idiot culture” seems to be eroding into a “jerk culture” as well.
Memes can tell us what our culture finds funny, entertaining, encouraging, meaningful, and relevant. They can tell us a lot about the culture’s values, interests, and dark desires as well. Therefore, as Christians, the meme is a great way to take a deeper look at ourselves and see how much we are mirroring the world instead of standing apart from it, or maybe a better way to speak to our culture. This column will be a weekly pulse check of this type, vis-a-vis the exploration of these cultural tidbits.
So, the first question: If you had to sum up what internet memes as a whole tell us about our culture in a “quick and dirty” pulse check, what do you think they are saying?
Also, in the spirit of collegiality and mutual edification, this link should further elucidate some of these themes, perhaps in a more direct and understandable way…