We used to have the wise words of people like William Shakespeare and Socrates for our guidance. But since smartphones and tablets have arrived, we have the internet meme. The difference is, these ‘nuggets of wisdom’ are just meant to poke fun at modern life. But what’s caused the change, and is it really just gospel disguised as satire? Have we actually just created another version of ‘universal truth’ through social media?
1. The roots
It all boils down to ancient texts, such as the Bible and Dhammapada. Wise philosophers, poets and teachers have their famous words canonised. This then lead to writers such as the Brothers Grimm and Geoffrey Chaucer creating the classic tales everyone knows and loves.
2. Moving away from absolute knowledge
Great thinkers and writers, such as Karl Marx and George Orwell, think that the world is too heavily by ‘Metanarratives’ (The Bible, Political and royal figures such as Hitler and monarchs, scientists and explorers like Christopher Columbus and Einstein, British Imperialism etc.). Thus, they encourage other people, such as the Modernists and later the Postmodernists, to move away that there is one version of truth and reality; in fact, there is no ‘real’ world, just perceptions of the world. This means that what was once considered “sage wisdom” from influential texts and people, is now just another voice.
3. What role the author plays
Some people may think older authors like Shakespeare are just another universal metanarative, who everyone sees as great and almost god-like. But others, such as Kurt Vonnegut and T.S. Eliot, twist and distort the supposed ‘mirror’ of reality by using metafiction to draw attention the fictionality of the text
4. The internet and internet memes
The internet is considered our reality, with smartphones, laptops, tablets and any other device we can access the news, websites, social media and blogs. Instead of reflecting our lives, or perhaps another part of our lives, our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts become our lives. This is because we use social networks and other social media to build our lives with the upload of content. Because of this, captioned images known as memes, are used to parody either films, political figures or events to connect with ordinary people. Often taken from TV shows, films or celebrities, they give the illusion of ‘normalcy’ by supposedly relating to the lives of ordinary people:
If it weren’t for the fact that this (not-to-be-taken-seriously) image of a sweet (it’s only a sweet, and just one opinion, right?) was presented in a joking fashion, this could otherwise be a very racist and contentious remark. It’s all too easy to blur the lines between humour and politics, a joke and brainwashing ideology. But what about blurred lines in other ways? Do we interpret this is ‘a guiding light’ for modern living? The ‘answer to our prayers’? (quite literally)? Or is it just another self-reflective attempt at challenging the Bible? When do opinions stop being opinions, and start being words you might see engraved on the Emerald Tablet?
Since many celebrities often tweet their thoughts and advice on life, is this just another form of meme? Moreover, will our Twitter accounts be our epitaphs and biographies for what we were known for? Are we being deluded into believing we will have an impact on the world like Charlotte Bronte or Eminem?
Speak your mind, pen-bangers!