Archive | Online RSS feed for this section

What is an internet meme?

7 Mar

I have a few favourite websites I visit every day. And one of them is Gawker, which basically takes the news of the day and other random but eye-catching stories/pages/trends and gives them a sarcastic, ironic or irreverent twist.

It’s also a great place for finding out about internet crazes such as my current favourite, cat breading, where people thread their pet’s head through a slice of bread and then share the resulting photographs. Then there was all the photobombing fun had with Angelina Jolie’s right leg after the Oscars, when the limb was inserted into photos of everyone from Darth Vader to Maggie Smith.

Both were recognised as great internet memes, and I have to say they were very funny. But they did leave me with one question – what exactly is a meme? I wanted to know more. So I did some research.

Now, I’m paraphrasing here, but a meme is basically an idea, belief, symbol, trend or practice that spreads and reproduces across societies and cultures, staying pretty faithful to the original concept. For example catchphrases are a meme, as are clothing trends (such as the current love for coloured denim).

On the internet, memes tend to get the most traction when they involve humour (see the aforementioned cat breading craze). And a great example is an early meme called Rick Rolling, where links set up on stories and pages as if they clicked through to related content instead delivered people to the video for Rick Astley songs such as Never Gonna Give You Up.

This craze was so big it even spread offline, revitalised his career and has spawned an upcoming movie. But it wasn’t the only one. Other, more recent, examples include: 

* LOLcats, where people take photos of cats and ascribe them with human thoughts/emotions in hilarious captions.
* #firstworldproblems, a hashtag that exploded on twitter to accompany vents and rants about issues which, in the long run, really didn’t matter.
* Planking, in which people took photos of themselves lying as straight as a board on objects ranging from statues to balconies.

So in short, a meme is really just something to eat up time I could spend on unimportant matters such as housework. Now let’s finish with a LOLcat…