THE MEMEIFICATION OF #SCHOOLSHOOTINGS IN THE U.S.: YOUTH, TIKTOK, AND PLAYFUL MEDIATED BODIES
Keywords:youth, TikTok, memes, play, trauma
With active shooter drills as a normal part of student experiences in the U.S., the threat of a school shooting has become commonplace and institutionalized. Within a context of cultural trauma, it is no surprise that teens are using digital media to create spaces for sense-making, placemaking, and as a way to respond to the constant threat of violence. Focusing on the mediated memeification of school shootings, there exists an entire genre of #darkhumor videos on TikTok in which young people create and circulate irreverent humorous media texts as a response to the constant threat of – and perceived political inaction to - school shootings in the U.S. Through a content and discursive analysis of 200 #darkhumor #schoolshooting videos on TikTok, this paper asks: what can we learn about how young people understand cultural trauma through an examination of their playful and memetic social media practices? Videos are categorized into three groups: playful parodies (which address media stereotypes, tropes, and transactional survival), playful critiques (which address the absurdity of school violence and the failure of neoliberal responses), and playful coping (which depict dance and movement as celebratory distractions). While the playful and irreverent videos can be read through a lens of critique, satire, or parody, the memetic, social, corporeal, and performative nature of TikTok affords related yet distinct practices and modes of playful social engagement that I refer to as the mediated playful body.