Memes help us cope with stress

By adviser Apr 3, 2021
Photo: DigitalGlobe
Photo: DigitalGlobe

On March 23, 2021, one of the busiest trading routes in the world, the Suez Canal, was brought to a screeching halt as a massive shipping container ship called the Evergreen was stuck in the middle of the canal. Located in Egypt, the blockage stopped all through traffic for a whopping six days, causing some ships to reroute to offset the week-to-month delays. 

The economy also suffered greatly due to the blockage. According to The New York Post, “it impacted about $5.1 billion a day in westbound traffic to Europe and $4.5 billion in daily eastbound traffic.” Finally, on March 29, 2021, the Evergreen was freed, and trade could resume as usual despite the weeklong setback. 

Since then, thousands have taken to social media calling for the boat to be “put back” along with other jokes. Why?

Amidst the weeklong blockage, many jokes and memes have erupted all over Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms. The memes were all across the board, some pulling from pop culture references and others simply cheering on the small excavator seen digging out the ship. Individuals have even made claims that they would “swim over” and free the boat themselves, pool floaties and all. I mean, how could social media not poke fun at the improbability of the situation with improbable solutions? 

As the jokes kept flowing (unlike the Suez Canal), more and more people constantly monitored the ship’s status, and it became a central topic of discussion. There even was a website created istheshipstillstuck.com so that people could track the ship’s progress. 

Once the boat was unstuck from the canal, rather than the jokes subsiding, they grew into demands to “put the boat back” in the canal. Petitions were created to get the Evergreen “re-stuck” in the canal or even get two boats stuck. 

Many people on Twitter were saying it was a large source of serotonin for them and that they were thoroughly invested in the story. Even though the boat being stuck in the Suez Canal caused a terrible disruption in the economy, the internet cared more about the jokes told in response to the event. 

Photo: Getty Images

Are these jokes too out of left field? For most people on the internet, no. The Evergreen was not only a considerable inconvenience to the economy, but it also became a source of comradery for people everywhere. With the blockage gathering a large following from younger generations, it created awareness for the situation, despite the attention being rather unorthodox. Even though the jokes were flying left and right, it brought people closer together. 

In all honesty, the memes about the Suez Canal reflect a lot about what Gen Z has gone through. Since the early 2000s, there have been numerous historical events that we’ve lived through, such as insurrections, war threats, and, more recently, year-long pandemics. 

As these major events keep rolling in one after the other, we try to satirize these events as a way to cope. Satire precedes Gen Z, as it has been around since ancient Rome. However, Gen Z uses memes as a defense mechanism against these major events and subsequent trauma and uses them as a social tool for communication. Think of memes as an inside joke you share with millions of people. An inside joke is funny, but it also has a sense of comfort to it. It makes it okay to laugh with others in a situation where you usually wouldn’t. 

We’ve all been upset about the pandemic ruining graduations, formals and family gatherings. Even if the jokes are crude and somewhat cynical, it feels good to laugh at something during a hellish year. In short, indulging in a bit of humor about an absurd situation like the Evergreen doesn’t hurt. 

By adviser

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