On Friday, January 3, many woke up to the disorienting “WW3” hashtag trending across social media platforms. Following a United States airstrike that led to the death of a high ranking Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, the country appeared to be in chaos. Iran’s reaction to this controversial move seemed unpredictable, leading to speculations around a potential third world war breaking out. As countries began to voice their opinions, the public’s reaction appeared to vary greatly across a variety of age ranges. While Millennials began debating the pros and cons of increasing America’s involvement in the Middle East, Generation Z seemed to react in the only way they knew how: obscure memes. Below this front of humor, however, a sense of panic and fear could be spotted from a mile away.
Thus far, though being a fairly young generation of people born from 1995 to 2015, Generation Z has received mostly negative media attention. From starting off the year 2018 by consuming poisonous Tide Pods to being a large proponent of the now offensive term, “Ok Boomer,” the generation’s reputation appears to mirror that of a child going through puberty. Though often seeming a bit foolish and rebellious, this new wave of young people also includes influential figures such as Greta Thunberg, making great strides in expressing what this generation truly believes in, including incredibly important issues such as climate change and racial equality.
While this led many to maintain hope in the future of our country, as its younger people appear to have their hearts in the right place, the reaction to a large shift in the incredibly fragile conflict in the Middle East seemed to be a reminder for many of just how inexperienced and young this generation still is. Fear and panic led people to immediately assume the worst-case scenario, and without being able to honestly communicate this fear, they turned to humor. This humor ultimately began distorting the truth of what really happened and showed that we are not ready to handle these kinds of worldwide conflicts on our own.
When asked to comment on the issue, Berkeley High School’s (BHS) meme Instagram account (@bhs_memes_), stated: “Memes are a defense mechanism — but one that can be dangerous when facts are misrepresented.” Rather than fearing the actions taken by our government and using memes and jokes to hide from their gravity, we must learn to grow up and face them.
Our generation, and specifically BHS students, have done incredible things and have proven ourselves over and over again. Together, we stood at the climate change rally in San Francisco and showed our lawmakers that we have beliefs and a future that we want to protect. We sent the message that we will not stand for those beliefs being misrepresented in the White House and government in general. Without losing our ability to laugh at the terrifying things that are thrown our way, we can learn to take them as seriously as they are. We can begin to prove to the rest of the world that we are ready to handle real responsibility and that we will not let our fear control us in moments in which real lives are at stake.