In theory, how fair is it to paint an image of an entire community using one photo?

If you’re on Facebook, I’m sure you’re familiar with memes (pictures usually accompanied by a caption or a narration below). They’re often posted to evoke a message of inspiration, humor, social justice, morality, religion, politics and everything in between. And try as you might to skip over them, they’re shared and re-posted thousands of times over, making them virtually unavoidable in the Facebook world.

Last week, we were introduced to “Chenango County Memes,” a Facebook page devoted to exploiting and unfairly portraying the entire Chenango County populace based on the negative perceptions and typecasting of the page’s architects (presumably college kids with a God complex and nothing better to do).

With memes that take a deliberately offensive stance on social issues like welfare, drug abuse, incest, teen pregnancy, education, and poverty in Chenango County, the page raises eyebrows and for good reason; it serves no other purpose than to spit in the face of Chenango. It’s filled with one-sided, biased, stereotypical and outright absurd depictions of the area, and while there’s nothing anyone can do but complain about it (you know, that whole first amendment thing), it certainly doesn’t garner any admiration from me.

Perhaps what’s worst about Chenango County Memes is its unjust portrayal of the entire county based on what the page’s creators choose to see. Several of the memes that are posted poke fun at the Norwich Byrne Dairy and, well, anybody who’s been to Byrne Dairy after dark knows what that could possibly lead to.

I get it. I’ve been there too. I’ve seen some of the characters that hang out there and no, not all of them are bad (colorful, maybe). Some on the other hand ...

Needless to say, to base one’s judgments of an entire community – of all of Chenango County no less – using a single minded and overly narrow focus on one miniscule lot in Norwich isn’t called for.

Chenango County Memes illustrates the area using degrading images lifted from Google and meme generating websites. The problem here? Anyone who’s spent more than five seconds browsing Google knows the internet is full of less than flattering photos. To lay them all at the feet of Chenango County simply isn’t warranted by any means (I’ll spare the details, but each meme makes the area seem like nothing but a cesspool of filth and stupidity).

If that’s not bad enough, the page demonstrates an incredibly ignorant view of welfare and unemployment in the area. Most of the memes posted target people living on welfare, primarily those who abuse it. Agreed, there are kinks in the welfare system; however, those are issues that transcend the borders of Chenango County. The county doesn’t regulate welfare, so to imply that the issues of welfare fraud can only be found here in Chenango, as the less than brilliant minds behind Chenango County Memes do, is like saying water can only be found in a kitchen sink.

It’s humiliating to see the name of Chenango County – the place I love and call home – dragged through the mud, stripped of all sense of morality and intellect, and made to look like it’s something from a Judd Apatow adaptation of the Beverly Hillbillies.

Insulting as the page may be, people like it, which I don’t quite understand. Since its Facebook debut, Chenango County Memes has generated over 1,000 likes – 35 of which were in the time it took me to write this column. As much as I absolutely despise the page itself, that is pretty impressive… and sad at the same time. How could you possibly like something that wrongly slanders your heritage, your community... you?

Regardless all the negative, there is good news: Chenango County Memes is just a fad on the fast track to becoming a has-been. It’s a gasoline fire burning hot and furious now, but that’s the kind of flame that burns out quickly. The people behind the Facebook page probably don’t have the will power nor diligence to keep it going, and while the Facebook community may not “unlike” the Chenango County Memes page, they will grow tired of it. It’s inevitable.

I believe in this community. I believe in the inherent good in the people who live here. In one of his essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “There are other measures of self-respect for a man, than the number of clean shirts he puts on every day.” Something to consider to balance the boorish views of Chenango County Memes.

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