Zia Hassan

Bumper Sticker Culture

+++ title = “10” date = 2018 +++

Have you ever seen a bumper sticker while driving that either enrages you or makes you fist bump your steering wheel?

Have you ever wondered who sits in that car and what they do with their days?

I have. It’s kind of a hobby. It’s fascinating to me as a storyteller because those bumper stickers are a representation how that particular driver wishes to tell their story. It’s how they choose to embody their beliefs. The thing that’s safe about bumper stickers, of course, is that you can’t confront the driver very easily. So there’s much less fear involved with putting a controversial bumper sticker on the back of your vehicle than there is in making a public YouTube video, or speaking at a rally.

And the same goes for re-posting memes. Back in the day (a few years ago), people would post a meme that expressed a particular sentiment or belief (usually political) and would add their own comment: “THIS.”

The exclamation of “this” was at least some indication of vulnerability. Now, not only do we share memes that have no known point of origin, but we also share the sub-comments, the “THIS”s from other people. It’s the type of thing that Jake Likes Onions uses as a humor device in his comics (the sub-comment is the title of the comic, and it comes after you read the comic).

And unlike with driving, it’s easy to confront the person inside the car, or behind the computer. You can flood them with comments or @mentions. But just like the bumper sticker scenario, minds aren’t changed. Rage is shared and perpetuated and multiplied. Wolf pack mentality ensues. Meme posting offers all the same problems that bumper stickers offer, except with an illusion of inviting a conversation.

So what does the invitation to an actual conversation look like? Well, it’s not in a bumper sticker or in-your-face meme. It can look different depending on the situation but the common quality of an invitation to conversation is this: we all sit in different places in our understanding of the world, and it is better to gain a perspective than it is to start by defending someone else’s.