Understand the meme or leave yourself behind. Deal with it.
The cliché is: a picture is worth a thousand words.
Which begs the question: what is the worth of an emoji? Sticker? GIF? Memes? Video? Playlist?
It’s easy to relate Gen Z’s preference for online communication to the fact that she was picked up in her founding years. Growing up with Nintendo DS, Club Penguin, Wii, iPod Touches, and Minecraft resulted in a robust, digital experience. But it’s more than convenience.
To understand Gen Z or young adults, one needs to realize that economic, political, terrorist, and pandemic pain is part of their DNA. In contrast to other generations, the last dark decades were not only experienced but fully integrated – which defines how millions now feel, sense and communicate.
While young adults prioritize IRL interaction (in real life or off the keyboard) to build relationships, and 85% prefer in-person learning to remote learning, 3-in-5 users find it easier to find themselves online than offline to express.
Breakdown: “Ease” = comfort of the tool, but also the ability to communicate precisely.
The desire to stay away from the keyboard can go hand in hand with a longing for the “superpowers” or the expansive expressiveness of technology. Both can prevail.
By deciphering the symbols, everyone can participate
Understanding Gen Z means understanding language – a key differentiator according to Andrew Roth and Tulsi Patel of Gen Z Designs, a consulting firm.
The unsuspecting think they get it. Smiley = happiness. But “a smiley is not just a smiley. In fact, we’ve never met anyone who uses ir unironically, ”say Roth and Patel. Things are not what they seem.
“The use of emojis can also reveal a person’s age, personality or voice. For example, the ???? emoji is actually not a common way of showing laughter. Gen Z tends to use ???? (I’m dead) or ???? (omg cry) to indicate that they found something humorous. “
Reading this piece on your iPhone or desktop will give you two iterations of the same emojis that require deeper intelligence.
If we define fluency as the ability to read, write and speak, there is a new need for the Rosetta Stone of the digital age.
Anyone in the know thinks the distinction between emoji is so obvious, but the majority don’t know. The majority are illiterate.
Do you actually know what this emoji means?
Do you actually know where the character of this meme comes from?
Do you actually know why this sentence pUrPoSeFulLy was written in lower case?
If emojis weren’t so powerful, the blood in the syringe wouldn’t have been turned into translucent, de-escalating and renamed needles at a time when COVID-19 vaccinations were necessary.
In the next ten years, language skills will become blurred in media skills.
Not to be alarming, but if 51% of Gen Z’s say they’re more creative than previous generations, TikToks aren’t the only aftermath. The language is being reshuffled and renovated. And it is necessary to keep everyone on the same page.
Memes are synonymous with truth
One focus should be memes.
On social media, young adults are more likely to share a meme than a selfie or photo of their food. Why?
- The meme contains more emotional information than text
- The meme is embedded in cultural data that serves as a secondary message
- What is communicated is securely outsourced to a character (i.e., “I’m not saying it, it’s you”).
- There is power in numbers (i.e., “I don’t say it, it’s us”)
Memes speak rich, collective truths. And in a time-critical world, visual representations can be conjured up and consumed more quickly. They won’t go away.
In conversation with Don Caldwell, Editor-in-Chief of Know Your Meme,
“The literacy of memes has grown in importance over the years, and it even feels like it’s accelerating.”
As a worldwide meme library, Know Your Meme democratizes education and thus culture and language.
“Know Your Meme takes this very seriously because we provide a resource for people to gain a sufficient understanding of memes to be able to participate in this type of communication,” says Caldwell. “I also think that future historians will gain a much deeper insight into the culture of different time periods through resources like Know Your Meme.”
The real social value of Know Your Meme is that it is updated daily and provides an accurate explanation of the zeitgeist in real time. It’s more than just understanding – it keeps up. After all, “Generation Z’s language is developing quickly,” say Roth and Patel.
For Gen Z, everything is content and all content communicates.
Sharing a headline is a message. A photo is a mood. A video is a mood. For a generation with such complex, nuanced feelings, these non-verbal but colorful media are required to convey what is being felt.
And in order to participate in a future – whether you are a direct recipient or an indirect recipient – it is important to decipher what it all means.