I Was Made Into A Meme, But It Was Not Funny

Posted by Shubhankar Verma in #NoPlace4Hate
December 30, 2017
Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

On November 9, 2015, a friend tagged me on a post on Instagram. I thought it was going to be puppies. Or a funny meme. Turns out it was a meme, but there was nothing funny about it. It had me in it. An Indian meme page had taken a picture from a blog post I had written prior wherein I was wearing a kimono and turned it into a meme with the caption “TAG THAT FRIEND WHO DRESSES LIKE GOVINDA (cry-laughing cat emoji).”

I held my phone in front of me for a few minutes and let it sink in. And while I shared the meme on my social media and wrote about rising above, it, undeniably, did hurt me. The comments, especially. Strangers who had no insight into my life were mocking my self-expression. Mind you, being called Govinda wasn’t, in the slightest bit, offensive. It was the ignorance that was hurtful. After I shared the meme, some of my friends defended me by commenting and calling out the admin of the page who simply put out a message that their memes were supposed to be taken lightly. But nothing about the post seemed light-hearted to me. It was bullying. Cyber bullying, to be precise.

More than a year passed, and I had left the meme behind. But as I was browsing through my Facebook feed one day, I came across a post by a (Facebook) friend, sharing how proud they were of the success their Facebook page had received, the same page that made a meme out of me on Instagram. For whatever it was worth, finding out that that friend was a co-owner of the page was a shocker. I could not have guessed they’d be involved. Nevertheless, this time, I decided to confront them.

As I made clear in the conversation I had with them, it wasn’t just why the post still hadn’t been removed that was bothersome, it was also why they had decided to post it in the first place. I reiterated to them the responsibility we have as social media users, that whatever we choose to put out has some impact on somebody. Given they had—and still do—a massive following and some amount of influence on a certain number of people, I told them I hoped they’d be considerate enough, that even though they may fail to empathize with the way someone might choose to lead their life, they don’t bully; that it’s okay as long as it’s comedic, but it’s not okay when it’s hurtful, no matter the intention.

They did apologize and took the post down, and a part of me believes they were truly sorry. And my hurt feelings weren’t the only reason I chose to confront them after over a year. I wanted to ingeminate the responsibility they had as a page with a large following. I confronted them because those who bully need to be taught better. I hope they know better now.