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How Memes Become A Political Expression At War


Memes become a political expression, using an existing cultural framework to transform complicated ideas into concise, understandable messages that evoke strong emotions. As we can observe with the Ukraine Invasion and Influence, which is portrayed as the hero and villain, "like us" and "the other," memes create the narratives that frame events.

Memes are more common on social media than anywhere else. TikTok, in particular, has embraced meme culture and short content.

For younger generations, TikTokis also the go-to source for news on Ukraine. Because of the app's prominence.

Ukrainian President Zelensky pleaded with TikTok users to stop the fighting, and TikTok influencers were briefed by the White House. How did memes gain such sway in politics?

How Memes Changed Thanks To The Internet

Memes on social media could appear very innocent. We've all seen in Hooksite images of celebrities with catsthat have an attitude and make grammatically incorrect comments along with irreverent and amusing commentary on life.

But since the initial "I have a cheezburger" cat and the numerous Gene Wilder from Willy Wonka memes, memes have advanced significantly.

As the world witnesses Russia's invasion of Ukraine in real time, memes play a major role. In addition to the extraordinary amount of information available, social media's aesthetics are influencing how we see conflict. Funny cat memes have been overtaken by popular ridicule of Putin. As a visual and political comedy, Putin sitting at an absurdly long table is humorous.

However, it paints Putin in a paranoid, lonely, and out-of-touch light. For younger generations, in particular, this kind of short-form information defines the narrative of this war.

The Days Of Solitude Are Over

Social media is an information firehose. The days of being able to avoid politics are long gone. Social media is a more important source of content than traditional outlets. Approximately 75% of American individuals over 30 prefer news websites to social media for getting their news, whereas younger adults are more likely to utilize social media.

Reporters use Facebook and Instagram live broadcasting to fill the audience gap. With Ukrainians giving up dancing and fashion to express their experiences under fire and foreigners contributing their interpretation of events, TikTok has in the meantime become a serious information source for Gen Z.

All of them last three minutes or less; some are stylized with animated caption overlays, while others are heartbreaking in their suffering.

The influence of TikTok has surprised many, but only temporarily. It has gained more credibility as a source of information about the invasion. When the White House TikTok Influencer Briefing was parodied on Saturday Night Live, TikTok's cultural prominence was verified.

Putin has traditionally relied on this, but Zelensky's appeal and the White House TikTok briefing revealed that he was slow to act in the Ukrainian invasion. If you want to control the political narrative, you cannot ignore the interactions of billions of users each month. You can influence reality if you can influence the story.

Memes Become A Political Expression

The term "meme" is not new. In his book The Selfish Gene, British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins used the term "meme" to describe a concept that may permeate a culture and subsequently spread. A meme is a piece of cultural data that, like DNA, can be passed down through generations and continue to exist.

Creating these straightforward messages by relying on cultural archetypes and emotions can have a powerful impact, so call this willful, intentional mutation.

Attitudes And Beliefs Are Influenced By Memes

Internet memes are inside jokes that express the creators' emotions and thoughts through captioned photos, animated GIFs, or videos. They can unite people and connect them. They establish and reinforce shared opinions as they spread across social media. They can also give viewers a feeling of group efficacy by doing this.

More persuasive than most people realize, memes activate identity, belonging, existing mental models, and beliefs to evoke emotion, frequently humor, and anchor meaning. Memes are successful at converting complex ideas into concise, memorable soundbites that create a narrative framework for making sense of experiences and occurrences.

As a result, for more than ten years, memes have been a weapon in cultural warfare used to advance political and social causes.

To help the audience understand how to feel and think about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they are currently being employed in a real battle to build a narrative framework. Zelensky or Putin are shown as Marvel Avengers in memes. They capture the actual struggle and anxiety for the survival of Ukrainian residents.

But memes continued to be irreverent and funny during the war. They are more powerful when coupled with an emotion, such as humor. Through the use of common cultural knowledge, it is their responsibility to give comments in a form that is understandable, comprehensible, and memorable.

They need to remove linguistic barriers and offer entry points that span generations, platforms, and digital cultures.

On TikTok, Memes, And The Ukraine Invasion

The effectiveness of memes translates nicely into TikTok's brief video material. The first "Twitter War" was the Arab Spring; the first "TikTok War" was the invasion of Ukraine. Videos of people sobbing in windowless bunkers and explosions destroying entire structures may be found in abundance on TikTok.

Ukrainian influencers are giving up fashion and beauty in order to showcase the beautiful and joyful pictures of life before and capture the devastation they witness today.

On TikTok, as we would anticipate, the content is highlighted with captions, overlays, and animations to clarify the meaning. Armed forces members post videos of themselves dancing to rock music while enduring the harsh realities of battle.

War videos can spread swiftly on TikTok because, unlike Instagram, the platform's algorithm offers trending content based on preferences and views rather than following.

Ukrainian war meme
Ukrainian war meme

Social Media Can Help To Humanize Conflict

Zelensky's television appearances demonstrate how social media makes individuals vulnerable in times of world crisis and humanizes them. Zelensky appreciates the power of an image because of his attractive appearance and his expertise in front of the camera. He tweets and shares short films of himself interacting with people while roaming the streets to demonstrate his commitment and presence.

Zelensky's social media initiatives create empathy for and identification with Ukrainian residents. They promote Zelensky's standing and authority by enabling emotional interaction with him personally.

They boost army and civilian morale in Ukraine and contribute to the country's international standing.

Five Arguments for the Effectiveness of MemesMemes can have a significant impact on how people perceive current events for five key psychological reasons.

Social media is brief and simple to read.Events and individuals appear "real" and approachable when depicted in images and films. According to Zelensky fans, this boosts emotional engagement and parasocial connection.

Memes and social mediahave the power to normalize feelings and worries. This enables individuals to interact with and process traumatic events like war.

Social networking is quick and seems authentic. The social media age has replaced word-of-mouth marketing.

Memes' reach and shareability, especially when influencers, celebrities, friends, strangers, and brands weigh in, verify facts and ideas through social proof.

Memes have the potential to spread, as evidenced by the volume of consumption and shares. Putin's ban on social media and major international news sites, as well as a new law making public dissent (including the media) illegal, serve as another proof of how well social media works for shaping and policing the world narrative.

Putin and zelinski meme
Putin and zelinski meme

People Also Ask

Can Memes Be Used As Propaganda?

Memes are kind of like traditional propaganda in that a hostile government could use them to spread false information that helps the enemy.

When Did Memes Start Becoming That Thing?

The idea of internet memes began to take off in the mid-1990s. Memes back then were merely brief videos that were exchanged among users in Usenet newsgroups. Memes also developed along with the Internet.

What Role Do Memes Play In Society?

So now you are aware of the reasons why memes are so well-liked by the general public. They encourage cross-cultural understanding and help you see the comic side of a stressful circumstance. They also aid in global communication and group coping. Additionally, the memes improve the mood and are spread widely, which increases their appeal.


Memes are a legitimate response to terrifying occurrences that are out of our control. They can therefore reflect and influence popular attitudes while also being amusing.

Inversely, emotional content may prevent viewers from challenging the veracity of visual data. Effective propaganda centers on emotion.

Even if there is a potential for false information and questionable films on TikTok, the overall trend is positive. The volume of knowledge from so many different perspectives sparks discussions that raise awareness, influence attitudes, and pique people's interest. Even worse things exist.

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