By Hansen Zhang (III)

In 2021, Generation Z, or GenZ for short, is between 8 and 24 years old. It is fairly obvious that what separates our generation from all that have before us in human history is the fact that we have had the World Wide Web and social media at our fingertips from a young age. It is why we use the Internet more than other generation. According to a fact sheet by Pew Research Center in 2019, 90 percent of younger Americans (i.e. GenZ and Millennials) have used the Internet.  

The GenZ sense of humor, as shown and archived through memes, is also distinct in its absurdity and randomness. It is natural to ask: Why are GenZ memes so absurd, so “spicy” and “dank”? To be honest, I do not believe there is a clear reason. People have simply found out that random things are funny. The punchline of the random meme is precisely that it just doesn’t make sense; it’s ironically funny. It’s like you’re watching a basketball game where the players are all air balling their shots. It shouldn’t be entertaining, but it is. 

As with many things, there is a dark side to GenZ humor. Memes regarding depression or uncertainty about the future are very prevalent on social media. If you browse a meme-related Reddit Community, you’ll probably be able to find a depression-related meme on the first page. This differs significantly from our perception of a “normal” meme (the memes of the early 2010s) with an image and a short blurb of text that is supposed to invoke laughter. 

Memes have become a sort of coping mechanism for GenZ, as we have resorted to joking about and creating memes about problems such as war, climate change, and depression. The major difference between old school and GenZ memes is that GenZ has found out they can use memes to joke about “bad’ things. I think all the other memes are still similar to old memes in that they express ideas through pictures and simple words that are usually meant to be humorous. Memes have evolved and even have real-world implications. This was shown in the recent events where Reddit users or more specific users from a Reddit Community named “WallStreetBets” pushed up the stock value of Gamestop by more than 1000 percent in just a week by encouraging other Reddit users to buy the stock through––you guessed it––memes. Although memes may seem silly, they have shown countless times that they play a crucial role in disseminating information and popular culture in our day and age.