People  have occasionally  written lately  about memes — not Dawkins memes proper, but internet trope-jokes, most particularly image macros .
The gist of all this writing is more or less the gist of any of this type of writing: things are horrible now, memes are ruining things, kids today are terrible, all of these image macros are evidence that the current generation  is stupid and will ruin the world. Standard stuff.
The complaints fall into three categories: kids today ruin English by using image macros; kids today ruin comedy by using image macros; kids today don’t know what image macros are supposed to be.
This image should clear things up.Â (The dinosaur is copyright Sam Smith, but he’s done a Creative Commons license, so he’s cool.)
I’ll start with the second : comedy is safe. Think back to bumper stickers. I know they’re still around, but think back to when they were the main means of communicating the sort of ideas that are now found in image macros. Or think back to that damn singing fish . Or any Saturday Night Live catchphrase. Or really any other broadly popular comedic phenomenon. Those are all different, in that there’s at least some sort of editor at the top, deciding what gets propagated . Image macros are in everybody’s hands, so there seems to be an oddly antipopulist sentiment in opposing them (on comedy grounds, anyway), but I think that what’s really at issue is the fact that most people aren’t funny . If everyone could print bumper stickers at will, there’d be a lot of dumb things on the backs of cars. A lot more dumb things . Image macros are kind of like that, in fact. Image macros are the bumper stickers of the internet.
The which brings us neatly  to the second point, which is the third point: technological changes happen, and things get easier. This specific objection is sort of an internet-hipster-cum-old-man  objection. Here’s another one: kids today don’t appreciate their Netflix and DirecTV. When I was a kid, we had four channels, all of which stopped broadcasting at night. We had to readjust antennae to make each station come in clearly. We didn’t have a remote. We had to hit the side of the TV in order to stop the picture from flipping horizontally. And even when it was working correctly, the TV still displayed black and white .
In the olden days of the web, ten or so years ago, one had to fire up MS Paint or a (probably bootlegged) copy of Photoshop in order to type text onto a picture of a cat. The audiences for these images were small and homogeneous, and all the members shared certain cultural touchpoints, and, generally speaking, made jokes that their tight-knit participatory  audience would get .
Now, in today’s modern world today, images macros are something everybody does. I keep seeing them from all sorts of people, featuring all sorts of superspecialized references. More tellingly, they’re used in mainstream media.
I’ve heard similar laments about the ease with which today’s kids have things, and they always arise when technology changes, going back to Plato denouncing writing as an evil and lazy technology, since all one needs is one’s brain . My trigonometry  book had a series of logarithm tables in the back. We asked about them one day in class, and the teacher told us they’d been made redundant by the graphics calculators we all had. There was no reason to use the tables, or to even know how to use the tables, but there’d been a hue and cry when calculators became relatively cheap. Teachers and older learners felt that not knowing how to use the tables — not knowing how to do things the hard way — would ruin the students.
I imagine that the same objections arose when the tables were compiled . I’m glad that our teacher didn’t put much stock in the objection, to the change. He noted that people had said the same thing when most students switched to ball-point pens from fountain pens. They won’t know. They won’t learn. They won’t understand. Things are different these days. Sesame Street is ruined because Elmo is on there now .
There remains the third and first point: English will be fine. Fucking relax. If you want to get worked up about linguistic change in English, go rail against the Battle of Hastings. It’ll do just as much good, and it’ll be more fun.
1. A very few people.
2. Very occasionally.
3. Very lately.
4. Macro is a fun one. In programming, a macro is an instruction that references other instructions — it’s a super-instruction or meta-instruction. The original idea behind the name is that image macros do something similar. . . they’re sort of a shorthand, a knee-jerk response one can use instead of typing up a full response. I talk more about the prefix macro- here: http://www.pankmagazine.com/pankblog/logophily/names-beer-food-literature-theres-not-a-better-current-term-dammit/
5. More like current degeneration.
6. And this footnote is foonote 6.
7. I do dislike that fish.
8. Not in the case of the fish, I guess.
9. One of the studies that supports the Dunning-Kruger effect (wherein people think they’re good at things because they don’t know what’s involved) uses comedy. Almost everybody thinks they’ve got a better-than-average sense of humor.
10. Calvin would be pissing on even more things, is what I’m saying.
11. This footnote is a diversionary tactic.
12. A brief tangent into purposeful misspellings: recentish slang uses of standard English words sometimes use spelling that’s different from the standard word, in order to differentiate meaning. It’s interesting. . . new homophones show up. Phat is one example: it’s spelled differently, so that everybody knows that you’re not suggesting someone’s just obese. (One can of course be both things.) The cum in the sentence footnoted here is Latin. It’s pronounced kyoom, and means with. But if you plug all of the words in that hyphen string into Google image search, you’re probably going to end up with something entirely different from what I’m trying to say in that sentence.
13. I didn’t have to walk uphill in any direction, because we lived on a very flat island.
14. Reminds me of a small-magazine lit, in a sense: the audience is almost all creators.
15. It’s been amusing to watch the jarring culture change from the free-for-all message-board versions of image macros (which freely mixed cute and cuddly cat pictures and text with other pictures, which featured horrible images and four-dollar cusses and rape jokes) to a more general audience (which is only amenable to more tasteful jokes, and puts wee censor bars over the vowels in any remaining swears).
16. This statement is all well and good, if one is Plato.
17. Man, I was terrible at trig.
18. Not really. Some of the calculations took a really long time. Still, though.
19. I used to be in this camp, but I’ve watched a lot of Elmo since then, and Kevin Clash knows his shit. His ethos is sound, too: he first joined up in ’79. One might rank him as the third iconic Muppeteer, after Henson and Oz. (Alternately, one might not do that.)