This is a series on the role of humor in online discourse, including some interviews with online religious humor sources.
Let’s be 100% clear: I appreciate good humor. I regularly use snarky comments. I’ve been known to mutter snarky comments during presentations or at clergy meetings. I’ve subscribed to The Onion and Landover Baptist for years and was a FARK reader before it was popular. I follow George Takei on Facebook. Anyone that knows me in real life knows that humor is my communication vehicle of choice. Also, my father is a clown (professional occupation, really!) so having grown up with a humor-architect like that, I believe I appreciate and recognize good humor.
So it is with that background and particular well-trained appreciation of humor that I say this: United Methodist Memes is sad.
UMMemes is a Facebook page modeled after Catholic Memes and Episcopal Memes, which are pages that share humorous images with humorous captions that play off particular value sets in our respective organizations. These are called “memes” in that you will see the same graphic with different text all across the Internets. The idea is to take a readily-recognized graphic and put our own spin on it to make it humorous to people in our same systems. And it can hilarious.
For a while, I really liked UMMemes. I shared a few of their posts, and I even posted one to my own Church’s Facebook page. I shared those early posts because they only had a few a day and they were really good.
But recently my feed has been filled with their posts (they post a ton most days) and they are rarely of good humor to me. And more than one FB friend has asked “have UMMemes jumped the shark?” meaning they have ceased to be a reliable source of humor. And in comparison to online Twitter snarkmasters like Unvirtuous Abbey in the upper tiers and @FakeUMCDS on the UMC tiers, there is no comparison because they post once or twice a day with really high-quality humor. Or maybe it is just my type of humor. 😉
So for UMMemes, I have three words: Quality over Quantity.
I understand the inclination to produce quantity over quality. Meme pages like ICanHazCheeseburger do this and you get maybe one chortle per 20 pics. So the model is already there. But when you start to get more likes, you start to want to push more and more content. Case study: My own Facebook page HackingChristianity recently got over 1000 likes…but 250 of those came in one 24 hour period. Why? I make a particular web graphic of Howard Thurman and it went viral. I started thinking about all the other graphics like that that I could make and boost my readership even more. The sky was the limit!! (cue Emperor Palpatine’s Unlimited Power line from ROTS) But more readership is not my goal. My goal is to have a vehicle that allows for people to think critically about Christian theology in general and United Methodist issues in particular. I could sell out and churn out graphics (though I will likely intersperse them), but my intention is conversation and investigations, not inspirational images.
In the same way, I hope UMMemes sees that their goal is humor. And Memes require good humor. So spend more time on crafting really great humor and pithy quotes and less on churning out a quantity of graphics that don’t have the quality necessary to be really effective vehicles of a good chortle during the workweek. If you study the great comedians, once they find the voice they want to talk with, they spend tons of time focusing on how to make it their best. Quality over quantity.
My plea for United Methodist Memes is this: you are doing well. You have 3000 likes, and your penetration into my friends list (judging by the re-posts) is pretty good. Now that you’ve reached these people, start looking backwards and seeing what posts did really well, start working on the quality control, and you can turn UMMemes into a reliable source of holy humor that will do well in our denomination.
With great reach comes great responsibility…to focus on quality over quantity. I hope you follow Peter Parker’s uncle’s advice. And if so, you will have regained at least one fan through it.
Blessings in the future.