Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reading Memes in an Internet public

The "Advice God" meme was not created for or by a certain group or religious community. As noted in the first week blog,  Advice God was first uploaded (user unknown) to Meme-generator in 2010. As a result, it is hard to find direct audience reactions to the meme. However, there are a few exceptions where public responses can be found:
1)     "Advice God" Facebookpage  (community) – This page was created around November 2010, but has been rarely active. The page creator (anonymous) shared only 4 posts, each a different meme from the "Advice God" meme series, and the comments are few or insignificant ("Yes!!", "This is my fav", etc). One interesting comment was posted on the wall of this page, in which a self-proclaimed Christian devotee asked that they "stop misrepresenting and mocking God". The only response to that was that she should buy herself some sense of humor.

2)     Knowyourmeme.com and Ranker- Both these sites are not clearly community\social networking sites, but they are both built on the principles of participatory culture, where all user are both consumers and producers . In the Knowyourmeme.com page dedicated to the God Meme, the discussion section soon evolves into a theological debate. For example, in reactions to the meme "gives humans an appendix\for the lulz", some commenter noted that "Actually, as I enjoy pointing out to people, medical science has recently found out what the appendix is for.".
In Ranker, most of the reactions are heated arguments between atheists and believers. For example:

But some are gentler:

3)     Lastly, when the God Meme is used in specialized Atheist blogs, such as atheistmemebase.com http://www.atheistmemebase.com/2013/07/01/pro-life/#comments comments are fewer. Perhaps, because most blog followers agree with the meme's message. However, some followers voice their discontent, for example (http://www.atheistmemebase.com/2013/05/25/god-the-adulterer/#comments) a reaction to a meme criticizing God for impregnating Mary, although she was already married, a comment reads: "Actually sge was unmarries, became pregnant and joseph, a much older man, married her to save her from being stoned to death... If you are going to insult christianity in the manner which yo do... Atleast double check your facts..."

Although the comments are few and diverse, two insights can be noted. First, it seems that the meme's message is clear. The Advice God format is very effective in communicating critical thoughts against God or religion. Some viewers experience it with humor, but others experience it as provoking anti-religious feelings. Which leads us to the second point – the reactions to the meme tend to be derogatory or straight out hate speech (see example 2 above) either against believers or against atheists.  This is not necessarily because of different readings of the same meme, rather the religious feelings the meme can provoke can lead to heated debates. 

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