Taekman: Hurricane Irma: meme with caution

There’s something ironic in the president claiming global warming is a hoax, and for the planet to simultaneously set itself on fire and start pumping out hurricane after hurricane.

You’ve heard about Hurricane Irma. Its reputation precedes its reach, spurring on waves of frantic news stories and social media posts. People are sharing tips on where to obtain supplies, on documents to carry when fleeing, on the path of the storm and where to find shelter. Wreckage pictures galore, charts displaying its gargantuan size, updates on its categorization—Irma has taken over the Web.

For all the complaining we hear about social media, it seems to be a valuable resource for victims and outsiders alike, maybe even more so than the news.

But not every social media post has been quite so serious: anticipation of Irma has created a wave of joke posts surrounding the storm.

The biggest culprits are Facebook events dedicated to combatting Irma and stopping her in her tracks. Hurricane protests on the beach, talking reasonably to Irma, spinning fidget spinners in Irma’s direction—there’s an event out there for everyone.

But something feels off when jokes on social media show up more than legitimate news.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Wow, you’re such a buzzkill, complaining about memes. Jokes are jokes—can’t we lighten the mood with a wisecrack or two?

This isn’t to say that the memes aren’t funny. By all means, continue making them. I’ve laughed at quite a few, myself. There’s comfort in humor. Irma seems a little less scary when you’re part of a Facebook event that wants participants to point fans at Irma and “blow her away.”

But also bear in mind that Irma has had, and is going to have, a serious and devastating impact on lots of lives.

As of Sept. 13, Irma had killed at least 38 people in the Caribbean and at least 30 in the United States. Florida is supposed to receive a storm surge 10 to 15 feet above ground level. Most of Puerto Rico might be left without power for six months.

Streets were flooded, houses were ruined, possessions were lost. The storm may be weakening, but the full extent of damage that Irma inflicted has yet to be discovered.

It’s easy to forget that Irma is a real threat when we’re up here in Ohio, with our biggest meteorological concern being what to wear in this weird transitional fall weather. It’s easy to crack jokes when we’re not the ones immediately affected.

This isn’t a piece collectively shaming everyone on the Internet for finding the humor in a bleak situation. All that I ask is that we please don’t prioritize memes over people’s tragedy.

Scout out good charities to donate to, spread storm preparation lists, send good vibes to those in your life who are affected. Don’t let the jokes overshadow the very real ongoing situation down south—especially since Hurricane Jose is en route.

Maybe use one of the jokes out there to cheer yourself up after one of the many inevitably horrible things you’re going to hear in the wake of this storm. But don’t drown out those living through it in order to crack a joke at their expense.

If the news is anything to go by, there’s more yet to come.

Sarah Taekman is a second-year student studying Origins.