Summer Fitzgerald is an anthropology and geography junior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
As quarantine fell upon the nation in 2020, content and viewership on social media platforms blossomed. Bored teens and young adults stuck at home fueled the rise of creators joining the next big app: TikTok.
While young creators filled our boredom with new dancing trends, relatable memes and videos to make us laugh, viewers on social media apps were warned of consequences including negative effects to one’s mental health and government surveillance.
Alongside the increasing use of social media platforms like TikTok, memes became more complex by dealing with political issues and world events. TikTok is not only used for dancing and funny videos, but some creators have started to talk about significant issues including body image, racial injustice, mental health awareness and even complex world events –– one of which being the current Ukrainian War.
Meme culture is beneficial to content creators and users when dealing with complicated and confusing issues. While creators post videos to express their opinions and experiences with the world, users interact and share first-hand experiences to make sense of current events.
The day Russia decided to invade Ukraine, videos showing the aftermaths of bombing were posted on TikTok. Influencer @valerisssh describes living in a bomb shelter, shares videos of her hometown destroyed and details how she escaped Ukraine and became a refugee. As her popularity began to rise, @valerisssh began making her videos in English to make them accessible to more people. Since then, her platform has gained over one million followers. Between the loss of her home and her brother due to war, @valerisssh is able to express the devastation of Ukraine to the entire world.
Although videos depict the personal toll of Russia’s irrational decision to invade Ukraine, some videos highlight the good-nature of Ukrainians to create hope. A recent TikTok that circulated social media platforms depicted nurses creating a makeshift NICU in a bomb shelter after a hospital was targeted by Russian missles. This video revealed that the desperate times during these bombings can lead to unity and compassion.
Another video that was popularized by the world of social media pictured Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova protesting the war on live television. This brave act rebelled against a law in Russia that prohibits the use of calling the Ukrainian invasion a war. As videos of teaching in bomb shelters and protests of war gained more attention, those watching on the internet began to form their own opinions of the situation.
While President Vladimir Putin fights to gain land in Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges peace, the internet expresses their opinions through memes. Throughout the invasion, Putin is often shown as a tyrant while Zelenskyy is a hero of the Ukrainian people. Even the official Ukraine Twitter account posted memes of the war including comparing President Putin to Hitler and depicting Putin running away from the force of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine’s constant presence on social media during this war assures the world that they will not be stepping down and helps them gain popularity in other nations.
The Russo-Ukrainian war has been named the first online war due to the significant role the internet has played in understanding world events from the people that are experiencing it and using humor to deal with conflict outside of our control. Although joking about the start of World War III might not sit well with some people, memes can help people cope with the reality of the situation. Another benefit of circulating memes is access to links that creators put in their captions so people can support and fund important causes, such as Ukrainian relief efforts.
We as TikTok scrollers may not have the power to stop the war, but supporting Ukrainian efforts through memes, funds and awareness unifies people across the world against Russia.