While poetry that addresses the meme (or that imitates the structure of the meme, as Edward Marshall Shenk’s work does) doesn’t necessarily recuperate political gestures made on social media, it complicates the social and aesthetic procedures of doing so by directly challenging the distribution network that makes them possible in the first place and remains, despite various assurances, deeply complicit with U.S. surveillance structures. And it does so at the most important site of contemporary social experience, where “liking” and “sharing” are consumer choices rather than functions of human interaction.
I’ve invoked that opposition between “consumer choice” and “human interaction” in the past, but it’s a false dichotomy that may obscure more than it reveals. Consumerism is a form of human interaction, albeit a highly schematized one.
Probably, the point in opposing them is to try to gesture toward the way enthusiasm (i.e., an eagerness to interact with friends) gets commercialized, gets turned into marketing buzz and status posturing. Social media often seems to foster this immediate conversion, apparently foreclosing the possibility of conveying enthusiasm without coming across like a word-of-mouth marketing agent or a distinction-seeking dilettante. The metrics and scoreboards of social-media platforms seem to shift the burden of proof to users, as using Twitter or Tumblr seems to betoken assent to quantification, an eagerness to play the attention game at the expense of the integrity of content. (Even using the word content seems to negate the possibility of its having integrity.)
But if you oppose human interaction to consumerism, you run the risk of setting the bar too high for what counts as “real” human interaction, effectively discouraging what interaction exists that overlaps consumerism or operates within it. Is no interaction better than consumerism-mediated interaction? If that is the claim, it needs to be argued explicitly.