The meme diplomacy
Amid the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces, vk.com — Russia’s mainstream social media platform is full of memes. Some are hailing President Putin’s move while a few are subtly showing their sympathies. Although the Russian government has a history of banning internet memes and jokes, loads of posts been shared on Russian social media are difficult to regulate.
While the making of political jokes and cartoons are historical and was even popular in 19th century America, the meme-culture of contemporary times is something still unknown to the most pre-Generation Y across the globe. For baby boomers, a meme still relates to the serious idea or cultural style that transmits spatially like genetic mutations. This is where the generation gap seeps in. Zoomers or Gen-Z (people born between the mid-1990s to early 2010s) are often dubbed as the meme generation. Their understanding of most of the serious science advancements, geopolitics, social phenomena, and other current affairs are shaped through these sometimes unintelligible 2X2 image matrix or modern internet memes.
Weeks before this ongoing geopolitical crisis, the Ukrainian government, from its official Twitter account posted a meme showing different types of headaches comparing migraine, hypertension, and stress with ‘Living next to Russia’. Within hours, Taiwan’s official Twitter handle ‘Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association’ replied with the same theme substituting ‘Russia’ with ‘China’. These posts received hundreds of thousands of likes within hours. Some even contemplated India’s MEA to share the meme with ‘Pakistan’, which didn’t happen.
This meme diplomacy is a very special type of digital diplomacy that can nudge and prime a whole generation at once. The lightning speed of information sharing and reaction building has made this culture quite popular. However, this potential of memes has not been exhausted even now with respect to foreign diplomacy yet. Interestingly, the domestic version is being exploited for a decade now. Most political parties have employed a bunch of people just for generating memes and trolling unfavourable ideologies and even personalities.
This tendency of memes in domestic and international politics will intensify with time as the present generation grows older and become office-bearers in our serious, monotonous offices. Hope they also learn to develop serious reading habits over mindless scrolling, as eating junk during meal hours can be unhealthy. Barack Obama once said during a commencement address to the graduating class of 2020, “No generation has been better positioned to be warriors of justice and remake the world”. The onus is on us to save our democracies, live peacefully and sustainably in the times to come.