How to Think Critically About the Who Want Me Meme

November 2, 2023
David Sunnyside

The who want me meme was born out of a need to satirise class-based and racially charged hostility that can be found online, particularly in the form of videos of people being confronted for doing everyday things – like selling water. In the days before smartphones, these incidents often went unreported, but as cameras became increasingly built into phones they became easier to capture and upload to social media. It’s here that the meme gained traction, and it’s become a powerful tool in the fight for racial justice, as it allows people to share their experiences and reframe how others perceive them.

It’s important to think critically when it comes to memes, and not just be quick to share. Many of them have been designed to elicit specific emotions in order to manipulate the viewer. For example, the who want me meme is typically accompanied by a caption that highlights certain words or phrases in an attempt to trigger a particular reaction, such as empathy, disgust or anger.

Memes can also be used to express political views or to criticise a person or group of people, and these can have negative implications for their recipients. In addition, some people may be vulnerable to psychiatric difficulties and finding memes that depict these psychiatric disorders can be triggering for them. Research has shown that interacting with mental health memes can lead to reduced psychiatric symptoms, as they provide an alternative means of expression and allow individuals to visualise their psychiatric experience (Akil et al., 2020; Kariko and Anasih, 2019).

If you’re creating a meme, think carefully about the message you are trying to convey and how it might affect people. It’s okay to create a meme that makes fun of someone or something, but it’s not okay to make fun of a group of people, and it’s certainly not okay to cause distress.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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