We encounter memes while scrolling through Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, etc. They are everywhere. We read them, we look at them, we share them, we tell people about them, and we laugh at them. So, when and why were memes developed and, why are they all of a sudden so popular?
Meme: An idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.
According to this definition, a meme carries cultural values, ideas, and symbols that are transmitted through pictures, speech, and gestures. In fact, there is a whole anthropological study about memes. The word actually derives from the Greek word minime, which means “to imitate.”
In this Web 2.0 era, memes have developed into a subset, known as internet memes. Internet memes are very similar to the original concept of memes, but they are transmitted digitally; concepts, catchphrases and different media are spread on social media sites such as Tumblr and Facebook. The purpose of memes, mostly, are to poke fun at a certain idea. Of the millions of memes that circulate the internet each day, there are some extremely popular ones that most people recognize.
For example, the baby who is holding his fist in a manner that suggests accomplishment. This meme has been used with several different headings, each suggesting a ridiculous accomplishment.
Another popular, widely known meme is the one of the Dos Equis Man, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” making a hilarious change to his widely recognized catchphrase.
I could go on and on about other funny memes that circulate the web, but what is truly impressive about memes is how fast they spread and how easily they are created. There is definitely a meme culture centered around internet memes. Oftentimes, memes develop from Internet subcultures and current topics. The joke in a meme can come from purposeful, chosen misspellings, parodies on society, or the correlation between image and text. Internet memes come in the form of images, hashtags, videos, and hyperlinks.
There are millions of sites that dedicate themselves soley to internet memes; there are also groups on Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook, and other social media sites that exclusively post memes. People like the social media page, and then share the memes. What makes memes so popular is the interaction between the people sharing and liking them on social media sites. But, as a meme is continually shared online, its origin is lost a little more each time.