Turning Tragedy into Memes for Fun and Profit

A hurricane is barreling down on the East Coast. Earthquakes are everywhere. Steve Jobs is retiring. Everything is fucked! Which means it's the perfect opportunity to cash in with a viral meme. But how?

Look, yes, things are bad and tragic and we're all a little scared. The economy is tanking, we've been at war for a decade, and on top of all that, we now have to worry whether or not Apple will still be making delightful things in a few years to distract us. Everyone is bored. Everyone is jaded. Everyone hates their jobs yet desperately wants to keep them. The banks are foreclosing. Our political leaders have all the courage of dogs trembling before a vacuum. The icecaps are melting, and I'm pretty sure I have a cavity.

In short, life is hard! And we need a little levity. When you make something to distract us from the humdrum horror of our daily existence, you're doing a public service. If you accept that comedy is tragedy plus time, and that time has accelerated, then, obviously, there's never been a better time to launch your hurricane Twitter feed than right now.

When you make fun of the things that frighten us, you make things a little less worrisome for everybody. And if you can make that feel-good joke interactive, if you can make something that people want to click on, or reply to, or repeat, or share on Facebook or Tumblr or whatever, Hell, you can even make a profit to boot.

But how do you do that? How can you make a joke, and make it spread? It's easy. You just have to know your medium.

One-time events, for example, lend themselves well to websites. And you can toss up a single serving site in a matter of minutes. Freak snowstorm headed to San Francisco that seems to be the sign of the end times? Make a site to let people know if the thing's actually hit yet or not. Did someone in congress say something awful and dehumanizing? Mock that motherfucker.

Ongoing events, on the other hand, are ideal for Twitter. When BP began despoiling the Gulf, @BPGlobalPR made us all feel a little better. While Rahm Emanuel ran for Mayor of Chicaco, a parody Twitter account elevated impersonation to a lyric artform. And when a cobra escaped from the zoo in the Bronx, instead of freaking out someone so completely inhabited that snake's psyche that even those of us thousands of miles away slithered along with it.

And then, of course, there is Photoshop. Oh, Photoshop. You are the ever-giving gift. Whether it's something silly, like Princess Beatrice's hat. Something serious, like the cabinet watching the raid on Osama's compound (or both!), Photoshop makes everyone feel good. It's corndogs as theater. Toss in a Tumblr to collect all those images and you're well on your way to empire.

Utimately, it doesn't matter how you go about it. Just make something! Do something! Go for it! The worst place for an idea is trapped in your head. And besides, everyone loves a good dick joke.

Here we've even made a flowchart to help you get started. It's the weekend. Dig in.

Turning Tragedy into Memes for Fun and Profit


You can keep up with Mat Honan, the author of this post, on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.