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2021’s meme game was simply bleh. Reels have taken over, but it’s not making us LOL

Memes, the beautiful gift of the Internet, the ventilators of an otherwise doomed life, the art closest to a netizen’s heart, are in their final days.

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During a regular numb-minded social media scrolling session from the seat of my bathroom, I realised I am not laughing as much as I used to. Quite weird, I thought, as I looked at yet another reel of two girls dancing to Jugnu on the streets of Mumbai, and cringed, like an old, ancient member of society.

This is when panic set in and I realised that TikToks and Reels have significantly reduced the presence of memes on my timeline. All I can find are dumb dancing trends. I scratched my head but couldn’t think of a raging meme trend in the past 2-3 months, something that broke the Internet like that ‘woman yelling at cat’ meme or the ‘expanding brain’ meme or the ‘Drake’ meme. The most recent ones that came to my mind were the ‘happy side, sad side of bus’ meme, the ‘red flag’ tweets that trended on Twitter for like five days, and the Padme and Anake meme. The 2021 meme game was simply bleh.

Or, reels have simply taken over memes.

Also Read: Instagram Reels are the new Billboards. And Badshah’s Jugnu has got people ‘hooked’

Modi’s Varanasi visit

Think about it: This week, photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Varanasi dropped. And yet, the meme content around them is missing in action. A joke here and a funny tweet there is all I can see. Compare this with previous photoshoots of the Prime Minister, like the memes that came out in 2020 of Modi doing yoga or that iconic picture of Modi wearing Maybach sunglasses to see a solar eclipse from 2019. These, as the cliche goes, ‘broke the Indian internet’. The only decent ‘meme’ emerging from the photoshoot I saw was a tweet by Anurag Minus Verma, an opinion writer, and content creator.

Memes, the most beautiful gift given to us by the Internet; the ventilators of an otherwise doomed, boring life; the art closest to a netizen’s heart; are in their final days. The art of meme-making is under threat, and the internet’s newfound obsession with one-minute videos is to blame.

Also Read: Instagram is dead. Reels killed it

The alternative argument

A legit argument against my contention is that memes aren’t just out-of-context pictorial content, they’re also in video format, which seems to have taken over.

True, the latest generation of memes is content creators jumping on a Reel or TikTok trend. There are funny TikToks and Reels, for example, the rapid eye movement Reels on ‘Somebody I Used to Know’ by Gotye, or crying in the shower to Taylor Swift’s ‘Enchanted’. Some Instagram influencers also make good use of the trend of the day to make jokes out of it, for example, Sakshi Shivdasani does a decent job at this.


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A post shared by Sakshii (@sakshishivdasani)

In this evolution, memes are more dependent on music than pictures, and also on the performance of the person in the video. But they also lose out on the relatability factor. When an influencer, or indeed an average Instagram/TikTok user, features themselves in the meme, they cannot bring to the table the same level of reproduction that a pictorial meme did.

But these memes are quite lacklustre and dumb and don’t make a viral audio/video a sum greater than its parts like pictorial memes did. For example, the viral ‘angrezi gaali apne paas he rakhna’, a dialogue exchange that’s going viral right now. It adds no creativity to the exchange, I don’t understand how it’s funny to see two strangers dubsmash over this exchange. Where’s the creativity, the relatability, the art?

Also Read: How Instagram reels is a mirror to modern casteism in India

Evolution of memes

Memes used to go viral because they used the same visual cue as a separate text, were easy to share, and didn’t risk personalising it as video content does. Seeing a different person present a trend differently cannot hold that shareable value once a face is attached to the video. So sure, different takes presented in the video format of the day can garner millions of views and likes but it cannot even begin to imagine breaking the Internet like a shocked/surprised Pikachu did.

Memes have been here since the early 2000s and at one point had to go, or evolve. But the new generation of memes, I fear, isn’t the break from the monotony of life that pictorial memes were. They can’t even begin to imagine bringing sharp political jibes, dark humour, edgy burns with the same simplicity. They can’t evoke a LOL, maybe a simple chuckle.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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