Holy Humor 01: Quality over Quantity

Why I dis-liked United Methodist Memes on Facebook

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.

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  1. says

    Right on. My standard for “holy humor” is this: does it have a point? So I am generally a fan of the “Every Day I’m Pastorin'” tumblr as it gives me a sense of camaraderie with my fellow clergy and causes me to think about the challenges of ministry. But the United Methodist Memes seems to go for the cheap laugh more often than not, and its jokes are about stereotypes (without any challenge to those stereotypes). So it is, for me, analogous to the little Johnny stories you hear in sermons that lighten the mood but which distract from the real issue at hand, which is to say the Gospel. But then, as I read over what I’ve written here, I feel like a kill-joy. I guess that is what happens when you analyze humor.

    • says

      One of my friends said that he contacted them when they were making fun of the red-headed child who is supposedly mentally-handicapped and asked isn’t this exactly the type of person who we would want to BE part of the church? So I totally resonate with your comment about stereotypes…

    • says

      My dad has been a freelance clown (birthday parties, restaurants, corporate events) ever since I was a year old. Being “clownspawn” was great for elementary school…not so much for middle school and high school. 😉

  2. UMMemes says

    I created United Methodist Memes Facebook page. A friend stumbled upon your blog and passed a link onto to me. I wanted to respond to your blog.

    I never intended UM Memes to make pointed statements or to challenge stereotypes or other such ‘noble’ efforts. I created it to provide a place to share some laughs, to make others smile. If occasionally I put something up that does that, great but that’s not my main intent. I like smiling. I need to laugh several times a day. I like making others smile and laugh. That’s why I created it. I don’t have tons of time to spend on memes, but in between everything else, I might have 10 or 15 minutes to make up one or two that popped in my head. This isn’t my profession–it’s my stress relief, my laugh, my enjoyment.

    As for the “supposedly mentally handicapped child”–if you went back and read the response to your friend, you would see that rumor is NOT true. “Bad Luck Brian” is now a grown young man who loves his meme fame. And, Bad Luck Brian is one of most popular meme templates out there.

    If some of what I put up or share that others make is not your style of humor, that’s fine. But I’m one of those who sometimes likes the cheap puny joke–and so do some others I know. Hope you stick around and overlook the ones you don’t like. I feel there’s some better than others but they all make me smile or I wouldn’t put them up.

    By the way, you’re always welcome to submit memes to the United Methodist Memes Facebook page.


    • UMMemes says

      Let me add–I see your insights as good ones but not valid as I never intended UM Memes to be some serious “fun” site so to speak but just fun and something to do when I need a laugh or smile. That’s it. Nothing noble, no aspirations.

  3. says

    I agree Jeremy but lets not forget that folks of all generations are enjoying this site. I have a couple of members who post a meme to my page because they enjoyed it and thought I would too. Do I think it’s funny? Sometimes but not always. Nonetheless I enjoy my members are engaging with a UM page beyond our local church’s page and they find enjoyment in spite of my own comedic snobbery.

  4. says

    The high volume of posts, low volume of actuially funny posts and way too many mean-spirited ones is why I didn’t “like” them when someone else re-posted one of the links. But I take a pass on Fake UMCDS for pretty much exactly the same reasons.

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