No one should bore themselves studying the formal definitions and theories about such things. As a matter of how everyday people use the term, a meme is simply the smallest unit of expressing a self-contained idea, reaction, or argument. It could be a joke or expressing a reaction using a recognizable person's expression. It might be a scene in a movie or some other cultural reference. But very often, it's a statement of opinion or belief. It might even make fun of other people's beliefs. A million statements are accompanied by photos of famous people, implying it's their opinion when it is more often a dishonest effort at credibility through subconscious association. In other words, memes can be pure rhetoric, akin to the revolutionary or wartime posters of the 20th Century.
And this is where the general public comes in. Sharing other people's words and ideas is so easy and instantaneous it has become a thoughtless act. It doesn't always reflect who we are, but it does paint a picture, intended or not. It also reveals our triggers and prejudices and sense of propriety.
I'm not talking about guilting people into sharing sob stories or anonymous religious promises to be blessed. It's even okay to get scammed into sharing supposedly banned content out of knee-jerk defiance. Those are silly but harmless. Heck, sometimes we promote satire as real news. We've all been guilty of such things, myself included.
However, we also share things that mock other people's viewpoints we don't care to understand, not knowing who among our friends and Brothers will be offended. Worse yet, we stopped caring, even mocking people who are rightfully offended. We libel charities and famous people, and corporations with unexamined claims, thinking it's not our responsibility to check things that may not be true. I'm pretty sure that used to be called gossip, but now it's public, and we lost all sense of shame. Sometimes we even unknowingly pass on content from hate groups we would never otherwise be associated with.
Even though we've been told to think twice before posting once, we're still impulsive creatures. Some messages pit one group of people against another. Why choose sides between veterans and refugees or the elderly and those with student loans? When did we decide falling for scapegoat rhetoric is a public badge of honor? Is making fun of Generation XYZ victimless humor or a lack of respect? We must wonder if we would ever say or share most of what is on our social media wall if we saw all those reading it face to face.
All of this can be summed up in one question: DO WE CARE?
I always thought a Mason's inner motto is WE CARE. We stand for things we believe in, and those include the virtues of truth and tolerance. We all have a right, or even obligation, to take a stand on issues according to our conscience. But we have a responsibility to not repeat other people's dishonesties, even if we agree with them or it sounds true to our viewpoint. We are responsible for civilly refraining from anything that shows blatant contempt or mockery of people with other views. If people know we are Masons but do not know Masonry, will they assume they would never be welcome in a Lodge because they disagree with what they think Masons believe? Think about that one for an hour or two if you haven't already.
The largest conduit for news and ideas today is people like us, not television or the newspaper. We are the purveyors of misinformation more than any news conglomerate. Most people don't even bother to consider the implications. Do our conscience and obligations demand we be better? If we avoid the responsibilities of civil and truthful discourse, we are missing an opportunity to make the world a better place.