This meme references Jacques Lacan’s concept of the mirror stage, where one (often as a baby) sees and recognizes themselves in a mirror, or more generally in a reflective surface, and objectifies themselves as an object outside of themselves. Through this externalization, the person both recognizes the reflection as themselves but also as something beyond themselves, which causes a fundamental alienation at the heart of their self-identity. This meme is clever and works well for those who are already familiar with the concept being referenced. If one is interested in psychoanalysis, this meme is quick to understand and is easily digestible—it consists of a single stock image, a crudely photoshopped face, and five words of text—which makes it engaging, as Instagram’s algorithm rewards instant gratification. Social media continually annihilates our attention span, and so this meme does well to not rely on very much reading to grasp, though it does reference broader philosophical and psychoanalytic concepts that can be thought about in great depth for those who are inspired by the post. It raises questions of identity and how clear the distinction between Self and Other really is, which has become increasingly pertinent given the mass proliferation and circulation of our self-images in mostly unprecedented ways through the internet and social media. However, the meme offers little explanation of what the mirror stage is for those who don’t know Lacan’s work, so it does not do much to teach an audience not versed in psychoanalysis.

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