Memes: where innuendos, sarcasm and politics meets social media

Our addiction to social media sites such as Facebook and apps like Snapchat means that we have now taken the creation of memes to a more personal level.

If you scroll far enough down your Facebook newsfeed, one thing you may have noticed is the sudden over-population of memes. ‘Memes’ are essentially vividly captioned images, videos or GIFs that get posted and shared around the internet. But they are not to be underestimated given they have the ability to infect social media sites. Unsurprisingly, they are now mostly created by creative teenagers and twenty-somethings with contrarian views, some free time on their hands, and an awesome sense of humour.

The word ‘meme’ was coined by the English evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. In Greek, it means “imitated thing”, and he defined the term to explain the way that cultural information spreads – though he probably did not expect that people would hijack his term ‘meme’ and use it in the context of the internet.

The word ‘meme’ was coined by the English evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Memes are highly targeted and are spread about social media by those who appreciate their content. They tend to focus on clever observations on human behaviour, or are simply just a play on words. Concepts that eventually become memes usually start out as an inside joke that you and your friends perhaps thought was quite funny, ironic or something that most would consider to be awkward.

Nonetheless, memes now explore our society’s ability to evolve and mutate an existing idea whilst uniting a large majority of us once we become familiar with that theme. With #savage adding to the memes of our nation’s favourite, Mary Berry of The Great British Bake Off stunning the UK into awkward silences with contagiously funny innuendos. Our world has been taken over by our love for memes.

If done properly, memes can also serve as an excellent marketing tool, like the video with Evian babies dancing.

Most of us remember the sudden ‘planking’ sensation that took over the internet. People across the world posted both edited and unedited photos of them essentially lying down in the strangest of places. With individuals of all ages and backgrounds planking on toilets, at the top of the stairs and on sides of buildings, it was a concept that took the internet by storm – despite the many accidents and issues it caused.

Other recognisable memes also include ‘trollface’, ‘LOL guy’, the ‘Y u no…’ cartoon, ‘Cereal Guy’ and many others. Don’t even get me started on the countless Harambe memes there are. If done properly, memes can also serve as an excellent marketing tool, like the video with Evian babies dancing. So, as more millennials use the internet, the bigger and better a meme can get. There are now even scientists who are looking into the science behind the success of memes.

A few years ago, when it was announced that DiCaprio had failed to win an Oscar after five nominations, the internet rooted endlessly for the Titanic heart-throb, with hundreds of memes being created in his honour, from ‘27 nominations’ (after the 2008 movie 27 Dresses) to a shot of DiCaprio alongside a ‘There’s always next year…and the next year…and the years after that’ caption.

Memes can also provide us with the opportunity to reminisce and re-engage with our childhood; from Snow White’s ‘I had an apple before Steve Jobs’ to Ariel’s ‘Don’t call me Ariel, my name is Helvetica’ memes.

It is not just celebrities and internet personalities that are bombarded with a sudden influx of highly inspiring and creative memes being made about them; Keele University’s Official Freshers’ Facebook page most recently saw a number of students getting involved in the discussion of the rebranding of the Keele University logo, which in turn saw students from all years pull out all the stops to create the best and fully representative memes addressing such changes to the logo.

Our addiction to social media sites such as Facebook and apps like Snapchat means that we have now taken the creation of memes to a more personal level. Owing to most mobiles being camera phones, you yourself could end up becoming the face of a very popular internet meme.

Memes grab our attention. Memes cannot be ignored.

As a social media driven generation, we have sat many an hour at our laptops, constantly tagging our closest friends into a continuous stream of memes. Most memes will undoubtedly have an element of humour, but there is also a fair share of memes out there that have underlying and deep concepts behind them too. Memes grab our attention. Memes cannot be ignored. This cultural phenomenon feeds on our addiction to share what we have seen online amongst our friendship groups and they even have the capacity to spur and start endless Facebook, Reddit, 4chan and Twitter debates within the political minds of our generation. The run up to the US Presidential Elections notably opened more doors than ever to the creation of the world’s most political memes.

Has it become an addiction?

On the whole, memes have become so relevant in shaping popular culture. Has it become an addiction? Perhaps. But memes have definitely become a huge part of how we entertain ourselves in our modern lives, and as more people catch onto the meme train, the more original and unprecedented that memes will become.

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