Ralph Waldo Emerson and Facebook memes

In his essay, Self Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson says this; “Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.”

Whenever I read this, I can’t help but think of Facebook memes. Some of you are aware that Facebook memes get on my nerves. I mean, they’re all well and good in small portions, nice little anecdotes. But I find the sheer amount of sharing and reposting Facebook memes disturbing. It’s like what Emerson said, they’re imitating other people’s ideas– but the thoughts are not truly their own. I think we would do well if people spent more time thinking and less time receiving the thoughts of others.

Of course sharing ideas is important. But I worry that people don’t take the time to really internalize the messages they are receiving. It is to easy to repost the thing and have done. Moreover, it is important to react to and personalize the knowledge and the ideas that we receive.

Better still is to come up with our own ideas and to share them. Let’s not become a nation where we let other people do our thinking for us. If this world is going to produce future Beethovens, Shakespeares, and Platos, then we are going to have to trust our personal ability to innovate and to come up with ideas that are worthwhile.

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