By ALICEN HACKNEY
Memes, we’ve seen them, we’ve shared them, we’ve quoted them. They’re everywhere, from the internet to poster club advertisements, and they don’t always send a very positive message.
Common themes that I’ve noticed in memes are social anxiety, depression and suicide. From “Bad News Brian” to “Demotivational Posters,” memes consistently remind people that many things in the world are terrible and there’s generally no use in making any efforts.
Some examples of memes that make a joke out of failure are the commonly viewed or shared demotivational posters with a picture of a boat sinking that reads, “Mistakes: it could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others,” and evil Kermit the Frog as the negative voice inside your head telling you not to trust people and continue binge watching Netflix even though it’s 4 a.m. and you have an 8 a.m. class. This trend has gone so far as to have people making memes about wanting to commit suicide and feeling desperately alone.
High school and college age people are the main audience for such memes where depression and suicide rates are among the highest. In 2015, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the second most leading cause of death among ages 15 to 34 years, with a more common mid age range of 20 to 24.
Overall approximately 44,000 Americans die from suicide each year, and according to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, for every one successful suicide there are 25 failed attempts. According to the American Psychological Association, at least one third of college students in 2015 reported having difficulty functioning due to depression within the past year.
There are a number of more serious factors contributing to this epidemic than memes, however, memeing is often a negative pop culture practice that is present in the day to day lives of students. They can just be something funny to look at in between classes, and they can even be a way to connect for people who have similar feelings on different social issues. But, when memes begin joking about weighty issues like depression and suicide, they can become harmful. Suicidal thoughts are often linked with feelings of hopelessness, and memes such as demotivational posters only reinforce those feelings of hopelessness.
Along the same lines, memes can be used as a coping mechanism when dealing with tough times. I am one of many people guilty of this. The more you stay on your phone looking at memes, the less time you’ll have to deal with the real issues you may be facing in life. It becomes a truly mindless activity to fill space that should be used positively. Even though issues may be painful to deal with, they will have to be dealt with at some point, and prolonging that experience by becoming numb and looking at memes isn’t healthy.
On campus the Tally Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., appointments can be made by phone or by walking in and crisis appointments are also provided. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or thoughts of suicide there are also many hotlines and services available. The number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and the number for the Crisis Call Center is 775-784-8090. There are many more hotlines and services to reach out to that can be found easily online. Whether you rely on memes or not, no one is alone.