My Journey as a Marianne2020 Meme Group Mod
(Originally published on socialstrategist.net – by Sarah Marilyn)
It started out as irony – like it did for most of us millenials. The memes may have started off as jokes, but what Marianne was saying was 100% serious – and nothing she was saying really sounded like a bad idea.
It was just so far-out from the rehearsed pandering we’ve become so accustomed to.
Suddenly, within mere hours of memery, I was convinced she was the best option and the one who had what it took to defeat Trump. As my ironic engagement grew, my unironic support also grew.
I volunteered for her campaign.
From Ironic to Un-Ironic Support
I’ve never officially joined any candidate’s campaign until this week – and I don’t even have an explicable reason why this time is different – it just started with the memes, and then I believed.
The social media of the Obama and Trump elections fascinated and inspired me. I studied them at length, and as the Trump campaign unfolded I couldn’t help but marvel at the genius of it. It was a campaign perfectly informed by the role of social media in the Obama campaigns, the natural successor in strategy – or so it seemed to me. It seemed likewise rather obvious to me that Marianne was the natural next step.
One of my favorite memes so far is this one:
Marianne’s message of love conquering hate rang like the strategic successor to the Trump campaign. But more than that, it galvanized the last of my ill feelings towards the Trump campaign (I was a vocal anti-Trump activist, until I watched enough Netflix documentaries and read enough thought pieces to make sense of the Trump phenomenon).
Understanding engenders amiability – I began to accept Trump for what he was, and was able to turn my focus more to understanding political problems, instead of political figures I viewed as problematic. I tired of cancel culture and #MeToo persecutions.
Trump is a step on America’s road to greatness. Regardless of how someone feels about him, that’s what he represents being the president. Marianne is just the next step. The natural reaction, the strategic successor, the next foot that we put forward on our pursuit of greatness.
If Trump spoke the big truths of 2016, Marianne is speaking the big truths of 2020. She just tells it like it is.
Orbs For Everyone
Within 48 hours of the first Democratic Debate ending (which I hadn’t even watched), I had co-founded Marianne Williamson’s Dank Meme Stash on Facebook, saw it grow to over 1000 members with 100+ posts per day, been introduced to a national manager of the campaign, and been contacted and interviewed by reporters trying to get a pulse on the burgeoning movement. It made for a wild weekend.
The group quickly developed a quirky character, where members of all levels of irony would arrive and begin using the lingo that spontaneously grew up from the comment feeds.
Bearing witness to swaths of people like me, going through a similar journey after stumbling upon the memes – it really drove home that a large, real movement was being built. We all collectively embraced the grassroots orb-anizing.
We dubbed her the Orb Queen, even though Marianne herself had said nothing about orbs – the orb emoji became a universal symbol of her/our individual and collective power. We memed her soundbytes and tweets into ironic oblivion within a matter of days.
When users with less empathy for the movement joined and raised objections and critiques of Marianne, they were met with words of love – ironic or not. The standard of discourse was surprisingly lifted and overly kind, for a meme group. Everyone had a right to speak, and when people disagreed, they disagreed lovingly.
Whether we were serious or not, we collectively began to realize that Marianne’s vision was not a joke – we had unwittingly proven her point.
The Memery Behind Winning Election Campaigns
Meme culture is oft discussed, and rarely understood. One thing I do know is that memes start out as jokes before they get serious.
I initially encountered a lot of resistance in the official Marianne2020 organizing networks and groups. A lot of older people who had been following Marianne for quite a while, and who take her very seriously, were quite distrustful of the ironic meme phenomenon.
I was called a “troll hater” for sharing a meme about Marianne “Re-Aligning America’s Chakras Again”, and had to explain that I was actually a new ardent admirer of Marianne. Many felt that the jokes would cause people to not take her seriously, to write her off, and that the memes were mocking her. Many felt that the memes would dilute her serious messages as they became mainstream.
Well, they were right in a way – the memes were largely mocking her at first. I began explaining myself in comment feeds to these people, and the way that irony and millenials interact – the way memes work.
I recounted to the distrustful members how similar phenomena had been observed during the Obama campaigns, and how it evolved during the Trump campaign, and now how what we were witnessing was following in the same pattern.
Many who were skeptical at first began to understand, and generational gaps were bridged quite rapidly. We understood that with Marianne’s unifying message of love, people from all walks of life and differing depths of Marianne-irony would be joining the movement, and we had to learn how to welcome them.
Likewise, as fellow dank memers began joining the official Marianne2020 forums, we were learning that we had to also be kind and accommodate older Americans in the movement, and try and be helpful to them.
Marianne has talked about how older people often have radical love in their hearts – their depth of life experience affects the depth of their potential love. There is a lot for younger radicals to appreciate in that.
It seemed we unwittingly, once again, proved her correct when she said that she would defeat Trump with the power of love. I was suddenly immersed in an army of love, composed of real people who could both communicate via memes, and many who felt as if memes were a foreign language, or an invading force – and we all just started throwing heart reaccs and emojis around at each other.
My Neuroscientist Past Life Makes an Appearance
Discourse via memes is a matter of bandwidth. So much information, inferences and context exist in a meme, which imprints on the brain in one of the most potent ways for a human brain – visually.
On top of that, through its employ of direct, indirect and composite symbolism, it also engages the faculty of memory. Engaging or accessing the faculties of memory even once automatically increases the familiarity and fluency of the notions conveyed. When something is familiar or fluent to us, we are disposed to feel favorably towards it.
Popular meme templates are frequently re-used in different contexts, which increases the fluency that meme transmits with. As successive iterations of a meme become popular, the meme gains new facets and sets of inferences that it communicates, and is thus able to communicate many layers of meaning. All of this, in a single image composition.
Are the people who compose these memes artistic geniuses? Usually no – they are just people who are fluent in this method of communicating. People who understand the memes are able to read the language, and people who make them are able to read as well as compose speech in the language. Its just a method of communicating, like any other language – except it is a post-Internet language.
This meme-power of someone/thing is essentially what the star-power of a celebrity is. That recognizability, that name familiarity. That thing that Trump, and the Clintons and the Bushs had. It makes people compelling and fluent when they have it attached to their name.
Meme-power is bigger than star-power though, because of the bandwidth of communication relayed in a meme. Its the equivalent of a volume knob – and meme-power is simply a much louder setting on the dial.
It is debatable whether Trump had more celebrity name recognition or idea fluency than Hillary Clinton, but it is not debatable who had the bigger meme-power in the last election.
We may not know whether Marianne Williamson is winning our votes ironically or un-ironically, but the #BigTruth is that she is now a very serious candidate.
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