Even as I type the title of this piece, my hands hesitate. Mostly because I can already envision the hate and casual mockery pouring in from people after reading just the title (because of our famously-lousy attention spans). It’s also because deep down, I don’t want to speak ill of something which I truly believe is one of our generation’s greatest triumphs. But I can’t let my meme-love get in the way of saying what needs to be said – we’ve officially taken memes too far.
It was mid-October this year. I was doing my regular social media rounds to see what new degree Deepak Sharma had added to his resume and what new holes the ‘Nagar Palika’ guy was falling into, when I came upon a new meme about a boy named Kamlesh, who was really enthused about something he called a ‘sulochan’.
Some digging led me to a video, evidently from a documentary about drug abuse amongst kids. Of course, my primal instincts elicited a laugh at the drugged kid’s outlandish replies to questions about his love for the liquid, but it was replaced by a dreadful guilt before the video had even ended.
I should have written this piece right then. But when I echoed my thoughts to people around me, I was served lessons in contemplating dark humour, reminders of how the memes were actually helping to bring these matters to light and scoffs about getting offended at ‘harmless’ jokes which the kid in question would probably never even see. The small, brazen, insensitive part of me convinced myself, and while I didn’t laugh at the jokes anymore, I didn’t condemn them either.
Then a few days ago came the hallelujah moment I was waiting for – a video stating that Kamlesh had turned his life around and was studying in the class 6 already! I felt prouder than ever at the social impact of the meme culture. But as many of you would know, that happiness didn’t take long to be shattered.
Dheeraj Sharma, the creator of the documentary, clarified almost instantaneously: “This new video is an absolute fake. First, they spread insensitive memes on Kamlesh, and now they’re spreading the video of another child under Kamlesh’s name. I shot the documentary six years ago. Kamlesh is now 18 years old.”
The director is aware of Kamlesh’s whereabouts but citing legal reasons he declined to share the details. Good call I’d say. I can’t even imagine the trauma the poor guy must be facing, having to see his demons brought back to life like this.
Kamlesh’s tragic tale isn’t an isolated incident of disturbing stuff made light of on the internet. Remember a bunch of those viral Instagram photos about a catfisher ‘Durgesh’ who turned out to be this guy’s brother and his disabled father? This is just the tip of an unexplored iceberg. Not only are we being grossly insensitive about addiction, but we’re twisting it further to justify our jokes as a means to reform. To say that our generation has a perverted sense of humour would be an understatement.
I’m not saying memes are a malady, they’re mostly harmless, and a huge chunk of them are actually refreshingly clever. My only appeal is that the next time you make, share or even ‘laugh react’ to a meme, think about the consequences it may have for a second. Just a second.
Social media is the biggest revolution of our generation. Let’s show ’em future generations that we used it considerately.