Memes and the Tourism Problems Behind It
In today’s society, memes are known worldwide. Memes are what we call comedy for kids born in the 2000s, and has now taken over most of the Internet. Memes originate from online users who create them and post them on social media such as Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Meme creators use “multimodal grammar”, or images and captions to express and share funny ideas and opinions, in some unique way. Most memes share some common features, as the creators use certain templates that go extremely viral on the Internet; again and again with a different caption. One widely known template is the Joker stairs meme.
This image is from the movie “Joker”, a dramatic thriller movie that premiered recently. In this template, Joker, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is seen in a red suit, dancing on the stairs with his arms up. Although the movie has only been released to the public for a short amount of time, this template has taken over the internet in the form of a meme.
Above are some examples of the Joker memes. As you can see, as the template is altered to fit their caption, not every meme is the same; each meme has its own unique humor.
Although memes may seem benign at first glance, they can surprisingly cause many problems to our society by noise, littering, and public disturbance. Some memes have an image of a place that can go viral across the Internet. This can lead tourists to visit the location the meme captured to take a photo to post on social media, which in many cases, creates a massive mob of loud tourists in peaceful neighborhoods. This is the case for the Joker
stairs meme. As Internet users tracked down the location of the stairs on Google Maps and leaked the location on social media, tourists are now barging their way into Bronx, New York solely for the purpose of taking a trending picture. Unsurprisingly, this caused the blockages of many paths. A man on Twitter, @GravitysEnemy, on Twitter, tweeted out a video of the stairs which were filled with obnoxious tourists sitting down on the stairs and taking pictures, obstructing the passage. Having to struggle to go up a staircase that is used as an Instagram hotspot by hundreds of people will be enough to anger me in the morning. That was not the only problem. Large amounts of trash being left behind were annoying neighbors such as Frankie Rivera, who has lived near the stairs for about 30 years. He reported that tourists littered “containers of drinks, all kinds of garbage - house garbage.” Rivera also trained for marathons by running up the iconic stairs. “Those were my sta
irs - that was my exercise,” he stated. Waking up under the bright morning sun, only to be interrupted by loud sounds of tourists speaking and shouting in various languages. “ A peaceful perfect morning gone to waste because of some stupid Internet phenomenon,” one cranky neighbor stated. Some neighbors have already suggested to put up a gate so that only residents of the area can cross. Although memes come and go, it has repercussions on the public.
Another infamous meme that caused a scramble was the Area 51 meme. The Area 51 meme became a Facebook event that gathered people from all around the world to raid Area 51, a top-secret American military airbase in Lincoln Country, Nevada on September 20, 2019, at 3 AM. Since the event launched on Facebook in late June, the occasion went viral across social media. Over two million Facebook users planned to participate, and another one and a half million people sparked interest in attending the event.
What made this event so especially alarming violent was that Area 51 was the U.S government’s property. "[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces," a spokeswoman told The Washington Post. "The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets." Fear of getting arrested hindered participation. A mere number of 150 people showed up on September 20 although none were successful in entering the base. During the weekend, however, more than 10,000 people visited the area. One woman in her 20’s attempted to go across the gates and into the base, but failed and got detained by the police. However, The Independent reported that “[most people who gathered at Area 51] chatted, took some photos and joked around. While there are reports of at least one arrest, there was no attempt to storm Area 51.” What many people thought would have would have been a violent raid turned out to be a rather peaceful gathering where people from all over the world socialized and joked around about the Area 51 meme.
As indicated, memes can cause numerous issues. Tourists attracted by memes can result in littering, noise complaints, and illegal violations. At the same time, the universal humor memes offer can also result in a wholesome gathering of tourists from across the globe.