Two years after the 2016 election laid waste to the mainstream notion that Internet culture was a harmless distraction, the spread and reach of online misinformation targeting voters is, if anything, worse.
Sure, Alex Jones and the hyperpartisan viral pages targeting the left and the right are gone (kind of) from Facebook. But the thing that made misinformation go viral continues to exist: People will share things that they’d like to be true. And in 2018, a wider segment of the population seems to understand that this impulse can be weaponized.
Anyway, we are here today to talk about a hilarious and relatable election meme.
The Meme: Me voting in 2016 vs. me voting in 2018
The meme itself is simple: Juxtapose an image that represents you in a more innocent time with an image that represents the toll the past two years have taken on your body, mind and soul. Maybe, in that second image, you just look distorted and worn. Maybe you’re determined.
Maybe, as in the tweet below, you’ve become Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers mascot who has become a left-wing hero.
The best way to understand what’s going on with this meme is through repetition. So here are a few other good examples:
If your particular online world leans blue, you likely have a greater chance of encountering this meme, as it’s been absorbed pretty heavily by those who hope Tuesday turns out to be a wave election.
Where did this meme start?
The “me voting” meme is a variation on an older, super-popular visual gag. According to Know Your Meme, the “me in ____ vs. me in _______” stems from a viral phenomenon that was, in part, a more earnest attempt to brag about growth over time. One tweet in which someone compared themselves in 2006 to 2016 inspired others to make some more surreal comparisons.
Once the format was solidified, it sort of stayed around as a Twitter standby whenever someone wants to make a fun joke about the psychological and physical ruin that time brings to us all.
Midterm elections, particularly midterm elections with some pretty heavy stakes, are one of those times.
Why is this meme happening?
As we explained when people were circulating a viral petition that demanded access to the cursed red liquid in a black sarcophagus so that they could drink it and end it all, 2018 has been kind of dark. That darkness has been reflected in the meme world, too: There were jokes about eating Tide pods, never having enough money to retire and constant government surveillance.
The me voting in 2016 vs. me voting in 2018 meme is what happens when that darkness meets a sliver of optimism. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Democrats and others who oppose Republican control of the federal government have memed the need to vote this year. Previously, for instance, we looked at the trend of viral rickrolling — tricking people into visiting a voter registration page with a clickbaity tweet about celebrity gossip. The most viral tweets of the me vs. me meme reflect the cautious, anxious optimism of those who are hoping for a blue wave — or at least, a blue ripple.
How can I use this meme like a pro?
Well, first off, hurry up. This meme expires as the polls close, and has already been pretty well-circulated as it is.
Basically, think of this as a before and after photo from an infomercial that is selling some sort of horrible wisdom. Before, you were innocent and excited. Now, you know better. Each day has felt like a year, and that burden shows in your tired eyes, eyes that look as if they’ve seen a thousand wars.
Or just pick two Shrek photos. People like Shrek, I guess.
What’s something smart I can say about this meme during an election night watch party?
The innocence of the 2016 photo should have never been. On the Internet, whatever broke did so long before those elections. This is something that watchers of Facebook’s growing influence, or the spread of viral misinformation, knew long before the surprising results of the presidential elections suddenly made “fake news” a household term — one that has been, since 2016, turned into yet another weaponized force.
"Me voting in 2018″ is with us forever now. We will never get the illusion of 2016 back.