BY IMAN UMAIR-QAISER
You’re scrolling through your Instagram feed when you notice a pattern of similar posts. It could be a man sprinkling salt, a teenage girl badmouthing a talk show host, or an oddly drawn frog. Sure, they’re weird. Ironic and ridiculous, even. But in this day and age, humour can come from the oddest places. Welcome to the world of memes.
Okay, okay, hear me out. I know what you’re thinking. “You can’t possibly consider writing a serious article about memes!”
And to that, dear reader, I say “yoU cAN’t PoSsiBly cONsIdeR wRItiNG a sErIOus ARtiCLe AbOUt mEMes!”
Just a reminder: even though memes are usually all fun and games, there are quite a few out there with rather rude and offensive humour. Please take time to evaluate your Meme Taste™ and make sure it can be considered respectful and humorous to everyone, in order to enhance their meme experiences as well.
Memes, as defined by several respected dictionaries, are ‘ideas, styles, or behaviours, (i.e. elements of culture) shared and created by humans, often influencing and/or referencing a social norm and object of popularity, as well as providing humour via meaning or situation.’
You, an intellectual: Social media
The word ‘meme’ has roots in the Greek term ‘mimema’, which translates as ‘to mimic’ or ‘to imitate.’The word was first recognized in 1976, when Richard Dawkins, a British scientist, wrote and published the book ‘The Selfish Gene,’ where he defined the word meme as ‘a unit of cultural transmission.’
Originally, the word was meant to be written as ‘mimeme,’ but Dawkins felt a monosyllabic variation rhyming with ‘gene’ would be more adaptable. These ideas are not limited to mere pictures. They can include videos, songs, and even actions (dabbing, anyone?)
So, we’ve got the literary definition of memes. But what are they exactly? What do they do? What’s the point?
Memes, to keep it simple, are funny. They can provide a little laugh, or they can make light of a dark situation (We’ll miss you, 2016 memes.). They can be insanely ridiculous to being so relatable it’s actually pretty creepy… is Tumblr stalking me?
Think of it this way: memes generate laughter. Laughter allows you to understand and enjoy other people. Understanding and enjoyment of human presences forms friendships. And friends ultimately impact and improve your life, maybe even the world around you. Just ask Joey, Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, and Ross.
Memes often stem from popular events and ‘happenings.’ They can range from celebrity life, political developments, introductions in the media industry, to worldwide news. Remember all those memes that started springing up right after Taylor Swift dropped her song ‘Look What You Made Me Do?’ What about the ‘covfefe’ memes? Or who could forget Pepe?
Although a meme can be based on a popular event, its spread and fame depends on its audience. A meme about a lecture on the influences on the formation of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (don’t look this up; it’s super creepy) isn’t likely to be funny to an internet currently obsessed with Kylie Jenner’s baby on the way.
The evolution of memes, by the way, is fascinating. Just look at this glo up.
Time of popularity: Anytime before mid 2010s
Time of popularity: Primarily 2015 and onwards
There you have it. Memes. Next time you see a Pepe or hear ‘Shooting Stars’ again, you might have a little more respect for the seemingly random things you experience everyday. Welcome to the internet. Welcome to memes.
Then again, we’re the human race. Don’t take us seriously.