Social media provides a new outlook amid conflicts with Iran


Leah Schroeder

Photo collage of some of the memes that have resulted from the tension between Iran and the United States.

By Leah Schroeder, Parkway West High School

A student scrolls mindlessly through Instagram. Liking posts from the past weekend, pictures of celebrities, photos of food, they come across a meme that jokes about the possibility of World War III. 

Many opinions have been circulating social media after President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani. Following this, Iran ordered missile strikes against U.S. military bases in Iraq

History teacher Kristen Collins has noticed that her students are well aware of this issue and attributes this to social media. 

“A good thing about social media is that you’re being forced to be exposed to information. Because of social media, more kids are aware that this is happening,” Collins said. “For a lot of kids, social media means getting information.”

From credible news reports to memes about the possibility of a draft, students have noticed a variety of responses to the recent actions taken in this conflict. In recent years, students have seen that social media has changed the way they learn about current events. 

“[Current events on social media are] a way to interact with a lot of people our age and get them to understand what’s going on,” senior Charlie VanCleve said. “I think social media has a humongous effect on [student’s perceptions of current events].”

Emphasizing the importance of being respectful, VanCleve understands that many jokes on social media are being used as a coping mechanism. 

“There’s an extent to [joking]. Once you start disrespecting what people have done in their service, that’s where you’re crossing the line,” VanCleve said. “[Joking] is how we deal with things and that’s how we make an understanding of the world.”

However, Collins believes that the prospect of a war is not something that should be joked about. 

“I don’t think this is funny. We don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s nothing funny about engaging in a potential war, because that is lives, potentially, to be lost both on the side of America and also on the side of people in the Middle East,” Collins said. “I don’t think that there’s any room for humor right now.”

Sophomore Rawan Alhachami cited social media as a way for students to learn more about current events, such as the conflict with Iran. 

“I think [reactions on social media have] definitely got us thinking about what’s going to happen to our country, and how we’re going to keep our relations,” Alhachami said. “I think it’s good that we know what’s happening, but I would say moving forward we should actually think about it, instead of just scrolling by.”

Alhachami has relatives that live in Iraq who could be affected by this conflict. Based on the recent reactions on social media, she thinks there is a fine line between humor and offensive jokes. 

“Some of the memes I find really funny, but I also feel a little guilty laughing at them because I know there’s a likelihood it’s my family that actually has to go through this, and I can’t make fun of them,” Alhachami said. “People use humor to cope with what they’re dealing with, but within the United States, citizens are likely not going to be affected by this. It’s mostly civilians in the Middle East that are actually going to have to face this in reality.” 

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on January 15, 2020.