Memeology

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Memes can get as dynamic as they can be. They have always been evolving into a powerful and versatile tool for shaping and reflecting today's interconnected cultural, social, and political landscape.

Introduction

Memes have been part of every person’s digital life, if they even have one. As someone who deems memes as a daily dose of entertainment, this topic has resonated with me in many ways i.e. politically, socially, and emotionally. Hence, I have chosen to discuss this as a way of enlightening myself and the ones reading this (which includes you).

It is important to know the roots of memes and how it affects our way of thinking. Historically, memes come from the Greek word “mimēma” ‘that which is imitated’, “gene”. Memes are not merely for pure R and R, but they have been influencing our society and its constructs. They have been a cultural element that spreads quickly and has frequently been altered by individuals as it spreads.

Who Invented the Word “meme”?

Richard Dawkins. Image used courtesy of Wikipedia

Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist and author. In his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene," he popularized the gene-centered view of evolution and coined the term “meme”.

Dawkins called memes "ideas that spread from brain to brain".

Memes are shared and replicated via social media, internet forums, and other platforms. They can convey various ideas, humor, opinions, or cultural references. Memes frequently evolve and adapt as they circulate, and their popularity is driven by their relatability, humor, or ability to capture a specific cultural moment. Memes have become an important part of internet culture, allowing people to express and share ideas humorously or impactfully.

First Ever Meme

Image used courtesy of BBC


Image used courtesy of
BBC

The 1921 comic is not a meme. But, when combined with the 1919 or 1920 comic, it starts to meet the criteria because both comics are versions of the same design, which contrasts reality with expectations by utilizing two panels and captions. This cartoon was undoubtedly a part of a pre-internet "Expectations vs. Reality" meme.

“Kilroy was here” Meme

During World War II, US soldiers in the Pacific and later the Atlantic theaters coined the well-known "Kilroy was here" meme, which spread like wildfire to indicate that US soldiers had visited a place and left their mark.


Image used courtesy of
ThoughtCo

Hitler even theorized that it was a code name for a high-ranking Allied spy.

Modern Meme

Here is an example of one of the First Digital Meme: 

Image used courtesy of TechCrunch

Dancing Baby, also known as Baby Cha-Cha, is one of the oldest viral internet sensations, first spreading through email chains in 1996. The viral short movie displays a 3D-rendered infant dancing to the beginning of "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede, a Swedish rock band. It was released as a product sample source file in "Character Studio", a 3D character animation software package.

The animated GIF, which later went viral, was made by web developer John Woodell while demonstrating the movie-to-gif process.

Types of Memes

Memes come in various forms, reflecting the diverse and dynamic nature of internet culture. Below are the three most common types of memes:

1. Normie memes - The name itself speaks for its meaning. The word "normie" has become a noun and an adjective that describes someone who is not particularly unique and whose interests, lifestyle, habits, and attitude are mainstream and no different from anybody else. Normie memes are those that you can send to anyone because they can easily be understood without further context. Hence, they are mostly targeted for ordinary people. An example is shown below:

Image used courtesy of Cheezburger

2. Dank Memes 

These are viral memes that have lost their value as a result of overuse. It may be offensive to others at times. An example of this is shown below:

Image used courtesy of Cheezburger

As shown in the example above, dank memes ought to be intentionally odd, self-referential, and full of inside jokes that make fun of meme creators who believe they are bringing new perspectives to the meme genre but have actually lagged behind the rapidly evolving tastes and trends of the internet. Thus, labeling anything as a dank meme alludes to a more comprehensive criticism of the rapid ascent and decline of a viral material. To put it another way, "This meme was hilarious and cool before it became so popular."

3. Wholesome memes

Wholesome memes are the ones that are centered on goodness, love, positivity, and happiness. These are memes that challenge audience expectations by utilizing well-known meme designs to convey feelings of kindness and support instead of the typical jokes that go along with them.

Although it can get humorous at times, this type of meme can surely make someone’s day. Below is an example: 


Image used courtesy of
Cheezburger

Apart from these three types, there are a lot more types that have been facilitating people to communicate, to engage in digital activism, and to simply belong in society. 

Understanding the various types of memes offers insight into the rich tapestry of internet culture, where humor, creativity, and shared experiences converge to form a global language of digital expression.

The Effects of Memes in Today's World

Reflection on Culture - Memes commonly comment on and reflect on contemporary cultural attitudes, trends, and societal standards.

Humor and Communication - Memes have grown in popularity, particularly among the younger generations. They provide a short and frequently hilarious means of communicating ideas, emotions, and societal commentary. Memes foster a common language that can span cultural and linguistic divides.

Political Satire and Analysis - Memes are widely employed in political satire and commentary. They provide a forum for people to voice their views on political events, leaders, and ideology in a visually appealing and frequently amusing manner. Memes can change public conversation and influence views.

Information Viral Spread - Memes can quickly spread information across social media platforms. Memes can help spread news, trends, and cultural phenomena, occasionally reaching a large and diverse audience.

Popular Culture Influence - Memes can have an impact on popular culture, with some becoming iconic symbols or catch phrases associated with specific points in time.

Branding and Advertising - Brands use memes as a form of marketing and advertising, capitalizing on popular trends to engage younger audiences. Memes enable brands to connect with consumers in a relatable and culturally relevant way.

Summary

Memes can get as dynamic as they can be. They have always been evolving into a powerful and versatile tool for shaping and reflecting today's interconnected cultural, social, and political landscape. 

Some memes may also reinforce stereotypes or spread misinformation, emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and responsible online participation. Memes, in general, play a complex and broad role in shaping modern society.

References:

[1] Know Your Meme is a website dedicated to documenting Internet phenomena: viral videos, image macros, catchphrases, web celebs, and more. https://knowyourmeme.com/

[2] Reddit is a network of communities where people can dive into their interests, hobbies, and passions. https://www.reddit.com/

[3] Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created and edited by volunteers around the world and hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation. https://www.wikipedia.org/

[4] BBC News

[5] Memebase by Cheezburger



Tags

#memeology #weekly talks

Author

Glan Ysmael Ines

Glan Ysmael Ines

Content Editor

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