11/17/2016 02:28 EST | Updated 11/18/2016 11:39 EST

The Internet Joke Club For Sad Lonely People

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I often find myself struggling to stay alive amidst my own personal trauma and the media barrage of global tragedies. I have a tendency to disassociate in order to process the severity of real world events, finding comfort in self-deprecating humour.

2016 has been a shitshow. Britain voted to leave the European Union. We lost Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Prince all in one year. 49 2SLGBTQA+ people were murdered in an Orlando nightclub. Police brutality of unarmed black men continues as protests erupt across North America in response. Indigenous people at Standing Rock are organizing against the construction of a pipeline and the colonial legacy of exploiting stolen land for financial gain. It's heavy as fuck.

To make matters worse, Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States this week, an outcome that will have disastrous consequences for people of colour, immigrants, 2SLGBTQA+ people, Muslim people, poor people and countless other marginalized communities. The fact alone that a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic sexual predator has been voted for by millions of people exemplifies that the negative actions of white men will not jeopardize their careers. Not only this but that white supremacy is alive and well.

Staying positive in the midst of impending doom is extremely difficult. Networks of solidarity and communities bring us together to lament over our current circumstances and support one another during difficult times. In the virtual world, these networks and communities are more accessible to those of us that are like-minded but geographically scattered across the globe.

Online communities have been created to connect people with every type of niche interests ranging from gardening, coding, science, veganism to my own personal love affair -- dank memes. At present, I am a member of several different meme groups, each of which have their own meme standards and reasons for existing.

Navigating the uncertainty of life, I turn to dank memes as a sort of parody of real world circumstances, both my own and those of the world at large.

The thing I love about dank memes is their ability to use humour as a way not only to process current global state of affairs and critique them but also to bring us together in mutual despair. While everyone's interpretation of what encompasses a "dank meme" will differ, there are enough meme groups around to find one that best reflects our personal worldview.

Dank memes have been around for decades and can be dated back to the infamous "All Your Base Are Belong To Us," a phrase originating from a 1989 video game called Zero Wing. They are viral Internet jokes that can often be sourced from popular media and culture, whether it's "took an arrow to the knee" from Skyrim or one of Spongebob's many faces. Some memes, like "dat boi," have no anchor point and spiral into the collective meme conscious from seemingly nowhere.

Regardless of the meme in question, what all memes have in common is their ability to translate obscure humour to millions and offer us some common ground on which to self-deprecate. Often, memeception occurs and we find ourselves laughing at memes so meta that people without meme knowledge will never have any idea what is happening. A lot of the time, we don't either.

Navigating the uncertainty of life, I turn to dank memes as a sort of parody of real world circumstances, both my own and those of the world at large. In the midst of suicidal ideation, I'll crack jokes with others in my favourite meme group about the void calling my name. If I need a pick-me-up, I'll generate a thread about our teenage hotmail accounts and watch as dozens contribute as we laugh in unison about our usernames.

The beautiful thing about meme groups is that they are more than just an internet joke club for sad lonely people. They are actual communities. I used to send my friends memes via Facebook messenger only to get an "Oh, that's a weird photo" response. Now, I can shitpost and speak openly about my mental health and fears about the future with others who are on the same page.

There is a strong connection between dank memes and mental health, one that should not be overlooked.

I started my own meme group when I was bored out of my mind working a dead end part-time job. Relatively new to Toronto, with little to no support network and suffering a recent break up, I clung desperately to memes to get me through the day and learn to at least laugh a little about my then present circumstances. I had an ongoing chat with two friends back in Vancouver where we would send each other memes. This chat brought me a lot of happiness through my difficult transition into living in a new city.

Before even reaching 500 members, I had several requests for a meet up. While not fully ready to commit to planning one, I kept the idea in mind. Moving from URL to IRL is not always a good idea. Some things are better left virtual. However, the membership of my meme group has proven to be incredible. At times, I have laughed so hard, I have dropped to my knees. People band together to shut down any problematic nonsense that detracts from the overall dankness of the group. The banhammer strikes down on anyone who does not follow our community guidelines.

My meme group has two upcoming "Meme Up" events -- one in Toronto and one in Vancouver, both of which I, the overlord, will be present at. Both events will likely incorporate an excessive amount of Doritos, Mountain Dew, Shrek and self-deprecating. The overall goal is to socialize with like-minded memers and use humour as a means to deprecate about this shitty year and wish it a slow and painful farewell.

There is a strong connection between dank memes and mental health, one that should not be overlooked. Humour has been used historically as an instrument of reflection and critique. Without humour, a lot of us might be dead already. I joke about being dead inside and it's this nihilistic humour that makes my brief existence in the deeps of space and time bearable. If nothing really matters, I might as well crack some jokes on my way to oblivion. Having some company along for the ride makes the entire journey even better. If you are interested in joining my fantastic online community, look up Bunz Dank Meme Zone.

If you or someone you know is at risk please contact your nearest Crisis Centre or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a counsellor.

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