The Influence of the Meme Generation: The Evolution of Millennials’ Preferred Methods of Communication


By JARED THOMPSON CENTO WRITER

Technological advances, by definition, allow us a variety of new opportunities with which to expand our worldviews. The technological advances of the 21st century, at least the ones college students have most closely integrated into their lives, have primarily allowed people greater freedom of expression.

However, the very same people utilizing the technology have taken it a step further to add unique flair and personality.

Memes were born from the Internet, special and sometimes incomprehensible written shorthand was born from texting, and other adaptations have been made to various means of communication by innovative young people.

The end result is that our messages have been boiled down and distilled to their simplest forms to fit into an era of constantly being on the go.

The underlying issue, however, is what this distillation says about our generation. By relying on these sometimes complex forms of distillation, are we simply adapting to the technology that we’ve been given? Or do we actually lose something valuable by altering our means of communication?

There are many subtleties to communication, some of which we aren’t even conscious of. When discussing the propagation of memes and text slang, we have to ask ourselves exactly how valuable these subtleties are in a modern era where constant fast-paced communication is integral to both social and professional lives.

Internet memes are, in their simplest forms, ideas, images, or videos that rapidly sweep the web or, in more recent cases, popular culture, and frequently lead to several spin-offs or remakes by various internet entities.

They can be as simple as a picture of a penguin with text of a socially awkward story placed around it, or it can be more involved, like thousands of people replicating “Harlem Shake” videos.

The underlying principle, however, is that these memes appear, become wildly popular (sometimes to the tune of millions of views within days), and then seem to disappear as quickly as they burst onto the scene.

Is this actually a striking departure from the past? “We kind of see this in memes, but even in movies and music. It comes out, everyone watches it, and then doesn’t talk about it, so the trend really isn’t that new,” first-year Ben Wells said.

This raises the question of exposure. Maybe cultural memes are not a new phenomenon, but because of the advent of the Internet we simply have easier access and exposure to popular items and trends.

Others, however, feel differently. In the world of 140 character tweets and 160 character texts, long elegant messages may be things of the past.

When people opt for a simple “lol” over genuinely expressing the fact that they found humor in something, convenience wins out over expression and honesty.

We’re forced to confront the fact that society has made a decision, either conscious or unconscious, to boil our communications down to predictable phrases that fail to give any meaningful depth to our complex feelings.

What implications does this devolution have on the people we communicate with? “I think having a fully typed out message shows more effort,” first-year Kat Hartlage said.

While individuals may adopt a mindset that allows for distilled communications and simplistic phrasing, the recipients may have other opinions.

The result is a disconnect between the two parties, with neither being fully conscious of the other person’s intentions, interests, or subtle hints that are easily understood in face-to-face conversation.

What is the full significance of all of this? In the end, not a lot. If the culture fully moves in the direction of rapidity and convenience, the time of fully formed thoughts via text and email will be forgotten. We will adapt and change, and then move forward.

If we see a reversal to the time of giving every communication our full attention, the exact same thing will happen. Culture is in a constant state of flux, never settling in for one place for too long and never coming to a grinding halt.

Maybe It has always been this way, and we’re just becoming more conscious to this flux because of how “in your face” the world becomes when magnified by the new technologies of the 21st century.


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