Guess We’ll Die

Kayla Lien , Opinion Editor and Student Life Editor

On August 6, 1991, the World Wide World was officially live for the public. Almost 20 years have passed, and the evolution of internet culture has changed drastically. From the ear-ruining dial-up noises of AOL to a plethora of entertainment at one’s fingertips.

As a minor, I can attest that this generation is so tired of hearing about how bleak and hopeless our future is. Yet, in spite of this silent desperation, we have turned our struggles into humor, something that we and others find comical and can relate to.

Not only has Gen Z taken over the internet, they’ve also made strides in creating new, universally-understood words that adults or those not often on social media aren’t privy to. This creation has spurred a whole new vernacular, called the Multi-Ethnic Youth Dialect (MEYD). This new “language” has been combined with African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) to create an insanely diverse new colloquialism with a lexicon of different words to use. AAVE is noted to have its own grammar rules that is universally understood, without acknowledgment of its existence. To someone not native to America, learning this new dialect would be almost impossible.

To someone not within or near this generation, there are even more things that will seem foreign and unintelligible. New words are being created every day to explain a multitude of different situations. For example, words such as “lit,” “meme,” “tea,” or “gucci,” are all words that mean different things to different age groups. What might mean simply a hot beverage made with herbs might be something totally different to the younger generations.

The first use of the word “meme” was in the scientific journal, “The Selfish Gene,” in 1961 by Richard Dawkins. His definition of the word was explained as information that spread rapidly through culture and society. What most people have come to accept it as would be anything that spreads quickly for the intent of humor. It has evolved from what once was just white text on a stock photo, into an idea, a phrase, a video, or even just a misspelled word.

Memes can literally be anything. There can be Vine-memes, a combination of a popular looped video that managed to spread extremely fast. People quote them all the time – just a phrase and an entire group of people know exactly what someone is talking about.

Now, with the creation of different platforms for media, humor has also changed in a way that isn’t wholly positive or negative. Nihilism, the idea that life is meaningless, is flourishing on social media. Pages dedicated to memes are filled with nihilistic memes, with the punchlines being “guess I’ll die,” death being a reward, or “I hate myself.” This creates a culture that tends to treat mental illness as a casual thing and turns it into a means of media consumerism. This isn’t an entirely bad thing, though. Memes are bringing mental health issues into the spotlight and helping to destigmatize invisible illnesses. It’s turned what was once a solitary situation into one of relatability. It’s enjoyed by the neurodivergent (mentally-ill) and the neurotypical (those without a mental illness) alike, because everyone has felt hopeless or like life isn’t worth living.

But, there still lies the issue of romanticizing mental illness. Sometimes, the media makes mental illness into more a trivial problem than it is. It makes mountains into molehills and may even misrepresent the issue, which can roll back years of progress. In some instances, having mental illness is something that is vyed after, seen as something that teens should want.

Generation Z’s humor is so incredibly bleak. We’ve inherited a world with a ruined economy and our predecessors hating us or giving us no hope for the future. We use humor as a coping mechanism to our battle with the insurmountable infection of mental illness. Our humor helps to normalize our experiences and make it something that brings others together. Yet, the prevalence of humor making fun of mental illness shows we as a society have a long way to go in opening up conversations about serious matters.