Wrtitten by Joseph J. Serwach
How will we remember July 20? As the day when a record 71 people were shot (12 killed) by a single attacker or the day men walked on the moon? Today memes help lock-in the quotes and images we remember.
We woke up this morning to the shocking news of a senseless, evil massacre in Aurora, Colorado, leaving 12 dead and 50 wounded.
But today is also the 43rd anniversary of one of our greatest triumphs: Neal Armstrong walking on the moon. Which anniversary will stick in our memories? That depends on our own personal connections as well the words and images we will remember.
Personal connections, the essential element of building work as well as personal relationships and growth, cement memories.
For example, the mention of the Colorado attacks this morning instantly made me think of the 1999 Columbine High School attacks that occurred just 15 miles away (we have a niece who went there though not in the 1990s) and of my sister-in-law, who lives in Colorado.
The fact that the attacks occurred at a showing of the new Batman movie jogs memories of watching the 1960s Batman as a kid and seeing the 1989 and 1990s Batman films with my kids. Will we now remember the Aurora massacre as soon as we hear the name, “Batman?”
We also remember quotes, things people say, and images, the world the way we remember it. I was too young to pay attention to the July 20, 1969 moon landing but the mere mention of it reminds me of Armstrong’s “One small step” quote and the iconic photos of men in space suits and footprints on the moon.
In 2012, Social Media users use memes to spread ideas, quotes and images. Just one week ago, President Obama said, “If you’ve got a business - you didn’t build that,” a sound bite that has taken on a life of its own in dozens and dozens of memes, videos and T-shirts. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney gave short, moving remarks in response to the attack.
It’s now normal for Presidents to be remembered with one or two dominant quotes. Think of John Kennedy and you think of “Ask not what your country can do for you” or think of Ronald Reagan and most think of “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’’
Campaign ads build on this effect. Democrats tied George H.W. Bush’s “Read my lips” quote to him while Republicans tied John Kerry to his “I was before it before I was against it.” Type these words into Google and Google will finish the sentence for you.
So yes, online search reinforces this habit of tying people to specific images and quotes tied to people they remember.
But memes accelerate this pattern. Log onto your Facebook wall today and you will see the images and quotes of July 20, 1969 in your news feed as well as memes mourning the victims and showing our support. What will the images and quotes of today be?
Former Washington Post Publisher Phil Graham once said newspapers were “the rough draft of history.” Today that’s also true of social media and memes. What are the quotes and images people will think of when they remember you?
Serwach is Organik’s Managing Director, overseeing the Movement Advocate division. Organik is a full service Michigan-based marketing and strategic communications firm generating change conversations to move the needle via a host of tools including campaigns, social media, advocacy, digital marketing, video, engagement sites, media relations, marketing events and public relations. Learn more at Organikconsulting.com.