I’ve been thinking and writing professionally about memes for almost a decade. At this point I doubt if can do much else. And in all that time, I’ve mostly wrestled with the aesthetics and implications of memes, what the content might say about the undercurrents of our culture. Occasionally, a meme’s origin is the question of greatest import: The “boomer” epithet is a purely Gen Z construct; popular comedy accounts are found to steal jokes; Pepe was an innocent cartoon frog that 4chan Nazis tried to co-opt. But never did it cross my mind that the source of a meme could be grounds for a breakup. Thanks to the archivists of r/insanepeoplefacebook, this ignorance has been resolved. Here, have yourself a look.
Sometimes, I know, memes can establish flirtation — you trade them back and forth, a fun love language in the DMs. What I’d failed to anticipate was that this romantic potentiality would spill onto the main timeline. If a partner likes every hot selfie posted by one’s rival, it’s fair to suspect said partner is at least mildly infatuated with that person. Could the same be true of memes?
Let me tell you, Vanessa opened a big-ass can of worms when she went off. A few basic deductions from her claim: 1) memes are primarily a mating ritual; 2) true monogamy means only liking memes shared by your significant other; 3) by sharing a meme, you have ownership of it, even if you aren’t the creator; and 4) liking memes from someone of the same sex is homoerotic.
I think my favorite part, though, is Vanessa’s insistence that her boyfriend liked “multiple” memes from this other woman, and that expressing such approval “MORE THAN ONCE” is what qualifies it as cheating. Imagine a social order in which we are all permitted to click the heart but a single time for any given person, lest we give the impression of amorous intent, and a second like gives the entire game away!
To be fair, Vanessa is probably correct to recognize a pattern of sustained engagement as meaningful, even if it doesn’t quite rise to the level of unfaithfulness. Like-stalking, though, is no less of a red-flag behavior, and in the end, we must still grapple with the ambiguity of sourcing. The chaotic energy of such a Facebook rant would indicate that no one involved in this triangle is making memes themselves, only spreading them, and therefore, we arrive at a different, fundamental puzzle: Does appreciating someone else’s sense of humor — in this case their curative tastes — necessarily imply a crush?
On balance, I’d say that registering lols at someone’s memes is not as suspect as faving all their thirst traps. But, just the same, it’s on the table now as grounds for paranoid jealousy — so keep your wits about you. I’m of the opinion that Vanessa simply wanted validation for her memes. Kelly Bos, a psychotherapist and relationship expert who previously spoke to MEL on how couples bond or squabble over the exchange of such material, said that sending a meme can be an “emotional bid” within a relationship. If this is “ignored or dismissed,” it could signal broader miscommunications in your dynamic.
For god’s sake, then, like everything your partner posts, and if you’re going to be out there liking other stuff, you may as well like it all. That way, your most incriminating favs are a few drops in an ocean of affinity. You’re welcome.