Memes (pronounced meem) are essentially Internet images, links, videos, or shared material that spread across social media. While memes are definitely the invention of the younger generation, these memes have become something that everyone can enjoy and share. However, the actual definition of “meme” means a culturally influential idea, style, message, etc. that gets passed around from person to person. Basically, the definition of “meme” is taking an image and making it a culturally relevant application. The term “meme” was coined by evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins to explain things that become culturally relevant in a short amount of time. He also coined the idea of an Internet meme, because people generally take images or videos and put them into a new context, thus making a cultural change from an existing situation.
It’s expected that the first memes came from the early days of the Internet, especially in forums and blog posts where you could insert images with your own text inserted or overlaid on the image. From there, it became the area for MySpace, the first truly social network, where people could share videos, pictures, etc. on their “wall.” It expanded even more as more social networks cropped up, like Facebook, Twitter, Imgur, and Tumblr, which are much more visually oriented than other websites and technologies.
You’d be hard-pressed to go anywhere online today and not find a meme. Consider all the funny “motivational” posters you see, or the short snippets of video with captions like “My Sunday night.” You see them everywhere you go, and they’re equal parts hilarious and annoying. Anyone can make anything into a meme, making it hard for anything to stay “viral” for long. Every day something new pops up, which makes it hard to be famous for your memes. There have even been marketing studies done on the power of memes, and how many people share them over a day. Because of this, advertising firms and big companies are beginning to get in on it, and now use memes for online social media advertising. Most of the time, you don’t even know the source of the memes – they could be created by marketing companies to get you to share something!
Why Do People Love Them, Though?
Memes are hilarious because they take something we see everyday, like a picture of a baby yawning or a video of a high speed chase, and caption it with something like “Me after work.” It is instantly makes it more relatable and it turns something commonplace into something that relates to people on a personal level. Memes are also so popular because anyone can make them, and when your own image gets shared, it feels like you’re Internet famous! Of course, you’re not really going viral, but it’s fun to think. Then, the fact that you can share it with people who are like-minded makes it even better. Memes are definitely here to stay.