On memes and Burmese pythons

 

Burmese python held by Nature Research Center staff and herpetologist Mike Dorcus.

Burmese python held by Nature Research Center staff and herpetologist Mike Dorcus.

I spend days doing science and some nights at a wonderful place called the Nature Research Center in Raleigh, North Carolina where they host the Science Café every Thursday night. This Thursday the museum was host to an exceptional speaker and herpetologist, Mike Dorcus. While joining a group of scientists, citizens and excited kids learning about Burmese pythons, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that if people had just reflected and researched for a moment before releasing their pet pythons into the Florida everglades, we wouldn’t have as big of a problem that we are having now (in some cases 99% decrease in mammal populations). This line of thought brought me back to JJ’s posts about the dangers of spreading memes without first doing your own research. Sensational memes and invasive pythons have more in common that most would think.

 

  1. People spread, share and forward memes that are based loosely if not-at-all on facts or actual history without a second thought about the effect of their sharing. Fear, hatred and distrust spreads in a world that needs more kindness and joy and less ignorance.

 

  1. People release invasive Burmese pythons when they get too big to care for them, thinking they wouldn’t make an impact on the broader environment… but instead they end up traveling upwards of 20 kilometers in a couple months, lay 40-50 eggs in a single season, grow up to 16 feet and eat alligators, poodles, cats, 80-pound deer and 2-year-old humans. Fear, hatred and distrust spreads in a world that needs more environmental education and less giant invasive Burmese pythons.

 

As you can see, releasing pythons are effectively like pressing that share button on that thing you thought was funny (but actually very untrue and hurtful to a lot of people, progress and kindness). I should mention that when people released these giant pythons they weren’t so giant… they were actually quite comparably small, people just got tired of buying rabbits and mice and doing the work and just put them out into the world.

 

Just like memes, pythons grow bigger and multiply uncontrollably. Is what you are about to send to your friends something that will multiply into hatred and misunderstanding? Does what you are sharing bring joy or knowledge to your friends and loved ones? Or does what you are sharing bring skepticism, hatred and sadness to those you interact with online? So, the next time you consider releasing the proverbial Burmese python (or even the literal Burmese python) into the world, consider for a moment the impact of your actions.

 

 

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