Recently the cargo ship the Ever Given was stuck while traveling through the Suez canal. The internet jumped on the situation and spread it like wildfire through unorthodox methods.
On March 23, the Ever Given became lodged in the Suez Canal, a vital shipping lane for most of the naval international trade and a shortcut for shipping. The ship being stuck resulted in a massive ‘traffic jam’ of other vessels trying, and failing, to get through the canal as they normally would. The absurdity of the situation quickly gave rise to a plethora of memes about the situation.
Within 24 hours of the Ever Given being stuck, memes about the situation flooded Reddit and Instagram and only increased as the situation developed. Some sought the desire for recognition and popularity, hoping someone would follow the trend of what’s popular in the hope that many people would see it. Another reason is the versatility of events in memes, as an example memes about a particular movie series or TV show will usually have a few main memes relating to iconic moments or lines of dialogue. So, taking those memes and then inserting the Ever Given was common to see the past few days in Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and other major movie meme pages.
However, as Cade LaLonde, sophomore and Reddit user cautions, “memes are usually made in a biased manner from the creator’s opinion, and to use social media as a legitimate news source isn’t a great idea.” LaLonde also believes that “memes can be good as a way to make you aware of a situation rather than to give a detailed explanation of current events.”
From seeing teachers’ memes that relate to their particular class or subject to meme pages on social media, a majority of people are aware of the idea of memes. Furthermore, as per Medium.com the word ‘meme’ has been searched more than ‘Jesus Christ’ since 2016. Memes have been solidified as a staple of internet culture since the early 2010s, and what makes them so interesting is the versatility of them. Memes can be used for pure comedy, to bring attention to a social issue, to make light of a difficult situation and even to inform people of world news.
Cole Movesession, junior, has found that “memes just make it easier to find out about situations and make for a good laugh, which is better than reading an article or watching a video. But, a good chunk of the time a meme omits key details or straight up makes details up in order to make the meme ‘work’ with the template it uses.” The reasoning behind this is quite simple: people are not unbiased and meme creators often are more concerned with entertainment than information because that is the purpose of memes.
Such is the case with the Ever Given situation, which has also been resolved recently according to USA Today thanks to a salvage team from Boskalis removing 30,000 cubic meters of sand, memes became a popular form of media when relaying news about the ship. However, this story actually spread quicker through memes than it did through traditional media. This situation serves as an example of not only the power of social media to influence people but also its effectiveness as a means of spreading information.
Overall, memes are effective ways of alerting people to new situations often more so than traditional media. Unfortunately, memes don’t have the same standards as traditional media and frequently are plagued with inaccuracies because of the inherent bias of the creator. Memes act as a sort of notification for news and deliver the information in a funny manner.