When does a meme go too far?


The popularity of “memes” have taken hold of the Internet, filling Facebook and Pinterest feeds with colorful pictures and offbeat captions. BYU is no exception. Within 24 hours of the BYU Facebook meme community’s creation, more than 2,000 people became a fan. Today the page has more than 8,700 fans, and many posts have hundreds of comments, likes and shares.

Seth Mindenhall, a senior from Hurricane majoring in food science, visits the BYU meme community twice a day. He said that memes are a fun way to express thoughts, frustrations and ideas and can even open the door to missionary moments.

“I think we are a peculiar people,” Mindenhall said. “If people can see us laughing at ourselves, maybe they’ll look into it.”

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This meme received more than 2,500 likes and 400 shares.
However, memes often cross the line from funny to offensive. That’s what happened to Liz Crowter and her daughter Heidi, who live in Coventry, England. Heidi has Down’s Syndrome, and several months ago Liz became aware of a controversial meme with Heidi’s childhood picture on it, according to Gawker.com. Liz has petitioned Facebook and other sites to take down the meme, which says, “I can count to potato.” So far, she has been unsuccessful.

Christopher Lew, a bichomestry major from Hong Kong, said the point of memes is to go too far. Although memes can sometimes cause discussion of issues, Lew said the point is often to offend as many people as possible.

“You’re really coming across a place where people have no boundaries,” he said.

Lew said that although BYU’s page is better than most meme communities, creating them in the first place means entering into a certain internet territory where the mask of anonymity often makes people go over the line.

“We’re really doing the exact same thing,” he said. “We’re just putting boundaries on it.”

Even though the BYU Facebook meme community is well monitored, it was temporarily shut down in February due to an attack of inappropriate images on its page. The origin of the attack is unknown, but several other college meme sites were similarly flooded with images of pornography and gore. Since the attack, the community’s administrators have tightened posting standards. Even through these standards, people in the community have voiced offense over certain memes.

Cory Larsen, a senior from West Valley studying computer science, said that memes are ultimately a part of internet culture and the global community. Individuals need to make their own decisions about what is acceptable.

“If you see something that is offensive, don’t look at it,” Larsen said. “It’s something that really needs to be self-censored.”

He said that memes are a great way to “make light of anything” and can sometimes provoke good discussion, but individuals should stay away from sites with a reputation for being offensive.

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For many, memes are away of enjoying aspects of LDS culture.
Andrew and Catherine Streeter, married BYU students from North Carolina, said memes provide another avenue for people to comment about the world. Catherine said the memes in the BYU community are more inclusive, allowing her to laugh at the campus culture. Andrew agreed.

“It’s nice to know that some people think the same way I do,” he said, “but they present it in a new, fresh way.”

However, Andrew and Catherine said there is a fine line between funny and disrespectful.

“When you’re making fun of what we believe in, it’s gone too far,” Catherine said.

Andrew said there are redeeming qualities memes possess, even those that go overboard.

“Even the bad ones, the ones you’re really offended by, can start people talking about (the issue),” he said.

When do you think memes go too far? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.

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