This is a story all about how my blog’s meme got spread all around. I’d like to take a minute, if you please, to tell you how I became the bastard parent of a viral meme.
We’ve all seen memes. Some good, most bad, all in CAPS. The good ones are really good and get rewarded by the gratuitous spreading of said images throughout the internet.
When something goes viral a ravenous, social exchange of information takes place where simply getting something out there is more important than where it came from (weird, sounds like the way we consume things IRL too!).
Yet, despite this viral human condition, it’s a good thing that some memes are smart. Like any good joke, a smart meme make you think about reality in a different way. Most especially, the wide reach of memes across millions of people around the world truly displays the power of humor – a force I believe more useful and productive than any other on the planet.
Humor can turn even the darkest subject into something worth cracking a smile at. Before Jon Stewart, no one thought politics could be funny. Taking things too seriously can really bring you down.
The world can be a nasty place, but it is our job as citizens of the world to be informed. Humor makes that easier. Kurt Vonnegut agrees:
“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around.”
– Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country
Humor and science should and do mix
I have personally performed research on the use of humor in the media, when discussing science and climate change. I coined the “humor frame” in my thesis study, suggesting that social scientists interested in the way that science subjects are framed in the media should be keen to the presence of irony, sarcasm, and lighthearted banter.
It does a public good when we all laugh together (unless we’re being mean!).
My “humor frame” will likely go on unnoticed in the academic world, unless I publish in an academic journal you can’t read without university access (useful!).
If my “humor frame” does gain popularity, it will probably not be associated with my name. Alas, the tragedy of such a small contribution to the academic world.
Now, when I’m not coming up with brilliant social methods of inquiry, I’m usually coming up with some way to not take the world seriously (it’s a dangerous thing – the Joker warned us!).
When I started this website one of my first ideas was a Green Memes page. The now famous “Renewable Energy, I’m a big fan” was one of our first posts.
Give and take on the Interwebs
Again, I think humor is powerful, so I started creating and posting energy-themed memes hoping that I could stir interest in the Wild and Free Project (discussing the future of energy technology with average Americans).
After the Grist post, our meme spread like wildfire. I had no idea, because no one else was giving us credit.
I noticed that the image was quickly becoming the most widely viewed item on our entire website based on web analytics, so people were definitely getting to the image through us a couple months ago. Wayyyyyyy back then, when you would search for “green meme” you would find the image and be directed to our page. Now, there are tons of other links and you can’t find ours among the mess.
I only noticed the phenomenon when, coincidentally, Arizona States’ School of Sustainability (a place I worked for two years) posted the image to their Facebook without a source. I could have been really bummed out about the loss of attention for my project, but instead, I laugh.
It’s hilarious that I was able to make an impact with something as simple as an image and a joke. In the end, the winner in this viral adventure isn’t the Wild and Free Project, the winner is wind energy and that is a wonderful thing.
Lesson: Spreading a great message is better than attention
Today, there are a lot more human beings out there in the world with a funny, welcoming image about wind turbines in their head than there were a few months ago.
Renewable energy can be an intimidating topic with all the money, politics, and association with global climate change.
Additionally, there are a lot of feelings out there in the public about the appearance of wind turbines and the technology’s role in a future that is growing more and more cataclysmic everyday.
The “big fan” image challenges those stereotypes and barriers to discussion about a very important technology (and one which the US totally kicks ass at producing and selling throughout the world).
The image makes people laugh, while also supporting human ingenuity and one of our greatest inventions.
Those of us who really are big fans of alternative energy, now have an image that helps us say so publicly, without the stigma of alarmist messages or technical language.
The joke is simple and direct, there is no room for controversy.
Energy from invisible forces: HUMANS CAN BUILD THAT
No joshing you, it’s pretty fu^*ing brilliant of us humans to have looked out into a vast open field with trees blowing in the wind and have said to ourselves, “that’s mighty powerful, kind of like a gift from god. Maybe I could do something with it.”
Humans don’t just admire, we create.
Energy from the sun, from the wind, from invisible forces hidden in lava, water, and soil?
If we build it, the cheaper electricity bills will come.
Afterall, isn’t the idea of humans learning how to power our planet without anything but the forces already present on our planet an absolutely amazing thing?
Kind of makes you want to smile, doesn’t it?
MAKE IT COUNT, PEOPLE!