My little sister was born with Pfeiffer's Syndrome, a severe craniofacial disorder that causes the bones in the skull to close prematurely. Excess pressure was put on her brain which not only caused her face to take on a different shape but also affected her nervous system. She needed surgery after surgery to manage her condition. Even with everything that she was going through, my sister was a ray of sunshine and her spunk and resilience were inspiring.
In the fall, I was seeing someone and he came over to my parent's house, where I was staying at the time, for a movie night and saw a picture of my sister on the mantel. I was prepared to explain her condition to him and answer any questions that he had.
Before I had the opportunity to talk about my sister who had passed, 9 years this past January, he said something weird to me and I didn't know how to respond.
He basically brought up the meme that was discussed in the video, After cruel photo of son becomes meme, mom takes on Internet, by WKYC Cleveland. He asked if that photo on the mantel, which was my sister signing "I love you" — a photo that is very special to my family — was a meme.
I was taken aback and surprised since I hadn't seen that meme until I watched this video on Facebook, and didn't know about it, until now.
The meme that he was referring to was of a child with Pfeiffer's Syndrome. Once the mother in this video found out about this meme, she confronted the social media sites that the meme appeared on, as well as all the people who shared it. All the social media sites took it down except for Facebook.
She brought up a good point about meme culture. When we are scrolling on social media, we see a meme, we laugh, maybe share it if it's a good one, then we carry on with our day. It's so easy to forget that the photos featured in these memes are actual people with lives of their own, struggles of their own, stories of their own.
I think what this mother did was incredibly brave and I admire her courage in standing up for her son. It can be so easy to forget that the memes we all know and love, are human beings, and shouldn't be ridiculed.
I realize now that the guy I was seeing was speaking out of ignorance and was probably uncomfortable with the subject because my sister looked different, but it still does not excuse the fact that it was offensive to me and came off insensitive.
I would have preferred he simply ask, "Who is that?" or "What is the story behind the photo?" instead of assuming it was a meme.