The internet can be a mystifying place. And I don’t just mean the labyrinth-esque routes to websites, nor the complex jargon. No, I’m talking about all those memes out there.
What is a meme? Well, I’m glad you ask, because despite being what I had assumed was ‘hip’ to the internet lingo, I still only learned this term during the past year. To discover the definition for myself, I turned to faithful Wikipedia, just another internet creation that couldn’t live without. Wikipedia defined a meme (which they first told me is pronounced to rhyme with cream…good thing I had never actually had a chance to speak it aloud because I’m quite sure that I would not have pronounced it as such) as “ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another.” Vague, right? So I read on: “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.” Still vague. Here I was, thinking that a meme would automatically be in reference to the internet– how foolish of me, living in the digital age, to assume such. In fact, the concept of a meme comes from the analogy that “as genes transmit biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information.” They are applicable throughout culture, including in spheres of religion, models of racism, and anthropological theories.
But to focus once more on the internet meme, this term is used to describe to describe concepts transmitted through the internet. Once more I had been hoping for a better explanation, but by coming across these indistinct interpretations I began to understand that the whole point was the memes weren’t as simple as they seemed. I was hoping for a specific definition that I could grasp and pass along, but the truth is that memes are all around us on the internet. By using sites such as blogs, social networking, and (my latest favorite) tumblr, we are constantly transmitting these memes. The internet is the society, and the memes are the culture.
To me, memes are best represented by the internet phenomenon. My internet-saavy suitemate will often show me YouTube videos or silly blogs that, despite obscure or non sequitur references, somehow gather a cult following. These are memes. But there’s more to them than just silly ways for hipsters to pass their time. Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have all taken advantage of using memes in viral marketing. Memes help create buz about a company, product, or service. They’re inexpensive and, if conducted properly, can become quite popular, especially with niche audiences. They’re also a great way to show creativity. Often the film industry will use memes to generate attention for movies.
For further information on memes, I highly suggest the website Know Your Meme. You will find yourself bombarded with hours of useless information and entertainment.