The Queen, memes and misinformation: Twitter’s takes on historical events

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

As an avid Twitter user, there’s a common saying among those who are chronically on the app, “at least one person trends every day, and you’d not want to be like them.” On Sept. 8, Queen Elizabeth II passed away, and within minutes the floodgates of memes and misinformation opened. 

When someone trends on Twitter, it oftentimes is not for a positive reason. From politicians to TikTokers, the only criteria to gain the spotlight is to be visible and deemed problematic. At the very least, the British monarchy can be described as problematic. 

In the United States, the happenings of the royal family are often overanalyzed and joked about on the Internet. This could be because of the very volatile history between the two or potentially as a response to the effects of British colonization that are still present for many around the world. 

The Queen’s death sparked much discourse on the longest reigning monarch. There is a gray area when it comes to talking about the problematic parts of people’s lives once they have passed as they are not able to defend themselves. 

The mourning period for those in the public eye is practically non-existent. With the accessibility and connectivity of social media, the constant flood of commentary and information does not allow people to simply sit with the knowledge of one’s passing before moving on. 

At the same time, the nature of semi-anonymity and freedom on the Internet, especially on Twitter, brings up uncomfortable but necessary conversations. The Queen’s life was put under the microscope — some information true and some false — with all of it going viral at the same time.

My question is, “at what point are memes misinformation?” In my opinion, most memes, specifically those regarding the Queen and the crown, had at least an ounce of truth in them. 

While they might not be completely accurate, they catalyzed a deep dive into the history of the crown and allowed for me and many others to uncover fact versus fiction. 

Prior to the Queen’s passing, I had a very rudimentary understanding of her reign and influence. Twitter is self-separated into different categories based on interests and demographics. 

On Sept. 8, the leaders of the meme movement were definitely Irish, Indian and Black Twitter. This has to do with their history of slavery, colonization and fight for independence with the British. 

From their memes and overall dark humor commentary, I was able to learn more about the dark side of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the history the crown has tried to not confront. Examples of this include, how the Queen never acknowledged the monarchy’s connection to the British slave trade, race issues within the Royal Family, Princess Diana’s struggles and much more. 

Personally, I believe that there should be a bit of a grace period when one passes before taking all of the skeletons out of their closest. While a public figure may be a meme to the masses, they were a person as well. 

Of course it is also very important to not overlook people’s problematic pasts because as a society, we learn from history. 

While perhaps these memes can be in poor taste, they serve as a reminder, and since the Internet is forever, the legacy of the Queen’s life, in all aspects, will not soon be forgotten.