AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Participants in a Thursday vigil in front of the White House to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
February 24, 2022
Russia invaded Ukraine early yesterday morning, with explosions in Kyiv along with many other Ukrainian cities. Since the invasion, 40 soldiers and as many as 10 civilians were killed as Russian troops continued to invade, taking over a military base in northern Ukraine.
Impending war is a real reality for the citizens of Ukraine, yet many in the United States have taken to Twitter and TikTok to make memes about a potential draft or joke that it’s World War III. Additionally, people have also taken to making infographics — making it easy for people to spread misinformation. These jokes are not funny, as many people are genuinely fearing for their lives or their family’s lives. War isn’t the chance for you to go viral — especially when it isn’t affecting you outright.
Coping with humor is one thing, but when it comes to a tragedy that has already claimed lives yet isn’t affecting those in the United States, it is tasteless. If the conflict was happening here, Twitter and TikTok would look very different — people would be called out for making jokes during a tragedy. Just because people may feel somewhat removed from what is going on at the Ukrainian border, doesn’t mean those who are actually fearing for their lives are able to joke about it.
There is a difference between being concerned about the potential for U.S. involvement in the conflict and making jokes as the Ukrainian people suffer. While President Biden said he is imposing stronger sanctions on Russia and signed off on deploying NATO troops, he made it clear that U.S. troops will not be engaged in direct conflict. Making jokes about a potential draft is not only insensitive, but it’s also just incorrect.
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For the people in Ukraine right now who are not sure what the future holds or for those in the United States with family abroad who are in serious danger, people on social media making jokes or posting infographics isn’t helping — they are adding to the cacophony of opinions and misinformation that is harmful to those suffering and those who want to help.
For the Americans and others around the world who are making memes or generally just trying to spread misinformation, sometimes it’s better to just stay informed and be empathetic to those actually suffering. Citizens in Russia have taken to the streets to protest the invasion, even with the threats of jail or worse. Ukrainian citizens fear another attack like the ones of Thursday morning. These are real people with real fears of impending war and conflict — it’s important to stay informed about the situation yet not make memes and trivialize it.
Taking to Twitter and TikTok for “dark comedy” is harmful. Decades of conflict have set the stage for this invasion and this conflict has affected real people. Memes are supposed to be funny, not a way to hurt others who already feel hurt by real-life conflict.
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