blink and you’ll miss it

Media and the internet have evolved faster than the rate of comprehension, creating new norms and nuances that we could not have seen coming. Some of these changes happen overnight while others slowly erode the very fabric of the internet, and our contemplation of it. When it comes to changes online, blink and you’ll miss it. These variations are often not good or bad but are just different and we can explore some recent ones by looking into memes and slang two online expressions that can influence the way we interact.

To me, memes are the encapsulation of human existence in a visual, uncomplicated form. There’s an image, or two, a few lines of text, and suddenly you’re laughing at a picture that otherwise had little meaning. Memes can be reused, reduced, and recycled like any sustainable internet phenomenon and have brought about a new age of laughter and even political commentary. Alexis Madrigal says it best,
“in the end, the meme itself is powerful. It spreads to tens of millions of people. It makes one woman rich. It helps market soda (2018).” Because what are memes if not the culmination of creative and ideological expression? They may not be the most elegant way of communicating how much you hate Donald Trump, but these images are able to condense profound insights or passive opinions and spread them at a rate unimaginable. Many individuals who became internet sensations overnight dealt with ranging experiences from Ghyslain Raza facing immense “cyberbullying” and “death threats” to Laina Morris who “initiated her own Internet fame, and she has embraced every bit of it (Merrill 2015).” Instances like these show that there is a light and dark to the internet and that even seemingly harmless memes have great power.

I would argue slang is one of the most difficult languages to master, it’s not static and while there are some evolving guides, slang often varies depending on the demographic you are part of. It’s also a pretty universal experience to have a time when you just did not understand a reference, or think someone was speaking strangely but they were using slang you just didn’t know. The blame is not only on the uninformed though, apps like TikTok have an “interface (that) makes it difficult to link out to external information” a strategic tactic that has users, “digging through the comments for an explanation for something living rent-free in their heads (Weekman 2022).” For those wondering, I don’t know how to quite encapsulate what ‘rent-free’ means so I turn to Urban Dictionary to offer you assistance. Like memes these words also have powerful messages that often rely on a backstory that viewers must understand, often taking one word and inputting innuendos and layers to the point where the definition cannot quite set you on a straight path to understanding the slang. From fake accountants to relationship status nails, the internet can create neuro links that the average user can only take so much of. This said, having shared online experiences, words, and customs can create a culture that transcends traditional barriers of space and characteristics, a girl in Canada can suddenly relate on a deeper level to her counterpart across the world- a microcosmic feat of globalization. These transmissions of phrases do come with their problems, with “internet slang” … increas(ing) its influence over everyday language, …concerns about how those trends appropriate African American Vernacular English (AAVE)” are also prevalent in media (Thompson 2022). Policies on hate speech and appropriation can be used to mitigate such risks but in such an evolving landscape stopping such issues is easier said than done.

Memes and slang serve as examples for the case of internet evolution while also showcasing the dangers and benefits, in equal measure, of various platforms. It is up to us, the creators and curators of the internet, to use it responsibly.


Works Cited

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Sorry to Bother You Gets Right about Memes.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 24 July 2018,

Merrill, Brad. “5 People Who Became Memes, and How They Reacted.” MUO, Make Use Of, 6 Apr. 2015,

Thompson, Dillon. “Is the Internet Changing How We Talk about Slang Words?” In The Know, In The Know, 17 May 2022,

Weekman, Kelsey. “In the Know Glossary: Your Guide to Internet Slang, Trends and Celebrities.” In The Know, In The Know, 16 May 2022,

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