Anatomy of a “What’s Your Excuse” Meme

One of the conundrums of the digital age is the pressure to impress everyone, everywhere, as often as possible. With this, predictably comes judgment. People judge their friends’ clothing, diets, relationships, living spaces, lifestyles, even their children. Then, they proceed to base their own evaluations of themselves on the observation of others. From this habit, was born the dreaded “What’s your excuse meme?” Sometimes, a little disabled girl is featured, running a track, red-faced and grinning, but other times a seemingly and ironically flawless fitness model is featured with her hair pulled into a bouncy ponytail, and her eyes glaring at the road ahead as if she is staring down all of the obstacles she is about to face. Either way, this meme is meant to motivate people who do not work out by shaming them and implying they are lazy. This meme, although ubiquitous on social media, neglects one trait that scientists, psychologists, and anthropologists alike insist differentiates humans from other animals: they are multi-faceted, complex beings that have the capacity to make decisions and consider options. After all, human society is built off of the power of decisions. For instance, there are urban hubs, suburbs, and quaint rural towns. There are lawyers, doctors, restaurant workers, teachers, writers, politicians, and store clerks. There are colleges, but also trades schools. All of these settings and professions allow people to choose what they want to do and where they want to live. If a lawyer judged everyone around him for not attending law school, like the models in the memes do. He would be seen as a menace because his expectations are unrealistic; not everyone can be a lawyer nor should everyone. It is wrong to judge people based off a their career choice (unless it is illegal or harmful). Likewise, it is not right for people who work out to judge those who do not. Firstly, one should not judge other for not exercising because many people do have excuses such as illnesses or scheduling conflicts. Before insisting busy schedules are not excuses, remember that while one person is able to maintain a fitness routine, a full-time job, and a social/family life, others are not. Everyone has limits, and these limits vary. Just as one student is able to load his schedule with demanding classes, volunteer, and be a member of a sports team, another may be too overwhelmed with schoolwork to take on other commitments. The first student should not mock his classmate because his classmates’ abilities differ from his own. If he cannot be pleased with his own accomplishments, he should reconsider his choices rather than belittling another person. Judgments like this imply that one choice is superior to another. Realistically, it is true that some choice are better than others, yet people all possess unique strengths and weaknesses. If one is terrible at math, but creates gorgeous artwork, he should become an artist (or a job that requires art skills). He should not feel pressured to pursue math simply because society views it as “more important” than art. Artists are needed to design clothing, advertisements, and other picturesque items that people use/see everyday. The “What’s your excuse” meme, however, suggests that people should always choose the superior choice. Many people still do not notice the flawed nature of the meme because they believe it is “only” about working out. They are wrong; the meme highlights a more prominent deeper issue in modern society: unnecessary judgment. Social media has universalized comparisons. People constantly see snippets of their friends’ lives and compare them to their own lives. Perhaps the memes would seem more outlandish if they read “What’s your excuse for not reading?” “What’s your excuse for not volunteering?” “What’s your excuse for giving in to consumerism?” “What’s your excuse for being imperfect?” For obvious reasons people cannot conquer everything. If everyone abided by this meme, doctors may focus less on patients and teachers may sloppily put together lesson plans. While this is a great leap from exercising more frequently, many people have schedules so full that with one activity added, their work may suffer. No, this is not true for everyone, but it should not matter. No human being is perfect enough to tell everyone else how to live.



  1. Dear Erica: I have very much enjoyed reading your blogs. I find them extremely insightful. I believe that you have a talent for writing and should look into becoming a writer for your college paper. Good luck with your first semester! Mrs. Copt

    Liked by 1 person

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