I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to memes, I save them, share them, tag my mates in them. The ones that I like are *normally* involving dogs or scenes from famous films or bad photos of Donald Trump, but then occasionally one will slip through the net that is my over-cautious mind and I will laugh and share a photo that wasn't mind to do that with. One that was perhaps stolen and created behind the owner of the images' back, one that might be really funny to everyone else but one that is humiliating and hurtful to somebody.
I was a meme once. Thankfully it happened before the things went bloody everywhere and hopefully it has been lost somewhere now in the deep dark realms of the internet (just in case you were interested someone photoshopped a photo of my dad's face over mine and made some grim sexual comment... DON'T LOOK FOR IT). Thankfully I wasn't deeply scarred and I'd actually forgotten about it until this morning.
But the topic of memes and their 'stars' is not a new thing, I've seen a few videos doing the rounds on Facebook of people coming forwards to say how hurt they were after seeing themselves on the LadBible or whatever. I remember seeing one interview with a disabled girl who had been made into one and it was truly horrible. I have also seen a few Tweets recently from people who have had their photos taken from their Instagram pages and turned into something that we're free to laugh at.
And then today something really hit home. A friend of mine sent me this:
This friend has a little girl and said, quite rightly: "It just pissed me off because you wonder where this "fat shaming" or desire to be skinny and feeling insecure starts" and pointed out that if her daughter saw it it would imprint on her.
Of course, she's right! I don't know who made this, whether the the parents are even aware of it. The problem is with this is that it IS quite funny, in that it is relatable to so many people, I can understand why it is so popular. But there are actually some really quite sinister things at play here:
- What happens when these little girls grow up and see them? Sure, they might find them funny, hopefully. But for the girl on the right especially, you have to wonder if she will be happy knowing that countless people laughed at her baby photos because she was 'overweight'.
- What happens when this image is seen by other young children? This was my friend's concern regarding her daughter. Although kids seeing this might not necessarily understand what the grownups are finding so funny, they will subconsciously question why these two images have been put side by side and might end up looking for the difference between the two girls, deeming one size to be more desirable than the other.
- By relating to this, we are projecting a lot of grown up, dangerous, fucked up issues onto children. These issues shouldn't effect anyone, we should not be drawing these comparisons at all. And it's one thing that it is a problem that we adults have, but to put it on children? It's actually so wrong. Fat shaming is ugly, it's horrible, it's bullying, and on some level we are doing this to these girls, comparing them to one another, saying that one is better than the other. This is grown up shit being forced on kids.
And so, whilst I hate to be a fun sponge, I really do, I might ask you to thank twice before sharing shit like this online. We need to remember that there is a story behind every picture, and sometimes that story is not ours to tell.