*Global conflict breaks out*

Generation Z: So anyway I started meme-ing

Photo by Twitter @ilokaki

Colin Sumner

Over the past few weeks, World War III has been trending on a multitude of social media platforms. On Twitter, a variety of hashtags, such as #WWIII, reveal some users’ thoughts. On TikTok, younger users are creating memes about the hypothetical global conflict. And on Reddit, the Third World War subpage has over 2,400 members and counting. 

Although this is the first mainstream exposure of WWIII, the topic is nothing new. People have been talking about WWIII since WWII ended. Its resurgence is likely due to Generation Z’s use of humor in response to tragedy, as we are a generation desensitized to trauma. 

The content of the memes stems from our generation’s likelihood of being affected by the U.S. engaging in further conflict. Primarily, this is because we would be drafted, and secondly because we will be the ones left after older generations pass.  

To address our concerns with cleaning up previous generations’ messes, we make memes. We use humor as a coping mechanism because we have been desensitized to violence. We’ve grown up in a world where mass shootings, terrorism and natural disasters aren’t accepted, but expected. From class-long discussions regarding the latest school shooting or incessant news reports on terrorist attacks, tragedy is utterly inescapable. 

My generation is comfortable with talking so openly about wearisome topics because we are willing to use humor to cope. Oftentimes, making a joke out of something can ease our harsh reality. 

The only new aspect of the topic of WWIII is that people are meme-ing it. It is entirely reasonable that we do so, as we have grown up in a world ridden with violence, which contributes to our desensitization to trauma. And, unfortunately, if WWIII moves from a trending hashtag to reality, my generation will be left to fix the mistakes of our elders—so, let us meme in order to cope.