“The word meme was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins wrote that memes are cultural analogues to genes”(Tippens 1). Mr. Dawkins most likely did not expect for the term to be carried all the way into today’s age where we constantly share things through social media and such, however, the definition still applies. Memes are a constantly evolving concept where “anyone can participate in the exchange of ideas”(2).
Some will say that “not everyone who becomes a meme appreciates his or her newfound fame”(“Memes and Viral Content” 2) and others will say that they should have been more conscious of what they posted. Although some memes have a bad wrap, most popular memes create a sense of unity throughout a community and facilitate a spread of ideas that reaches almost every corner of the world.Most popular memes that unite people have a common theme of copying previous popular memes or that it just “satisfies a new niche”(Tippens 2). The second reason coincides with the fact that common culture of today is that the major corporate companies simply push out content that may or may not be a cash grab. So when “the number of remaining cultural events that actually unite us — or at least get us all together to consume the same thing — is dwindling”(Rosenberg 2), it is refreshing that “memes are, by contrast, one of the last remaining last shared cultural experiences”(2). This allows memes to slip into the spotlight and gain the attention they deserve despite them not being manufactured some giant corporation. The way that memes evolve into pop-culture and unite various people is simply the fact that memes are “a variation of one idea that grew through countless people sharing the same idea”(Tippens 3).
This process of constantly evolving from one person’s idea and the next allows a meme to essentially improve until it is accepted by the masses, or fall back into the void because there were not enough who shared the same idea.To some, memes are the most common type of viral content that they see. This means that their most common way of receiving ideas is through memes. A meme spreads ideas because it is “a cultural signifier that spreads simply because it is good at spreading”(Rao 2). For example, one of the most popular memes ever was the Harambe meme. The Harambe meme became so popular because it “is an entropic heat death anti-narrative that can mean anything while signifying nothing”(3). This is evidenced by the spread of memes about Harambe ranging from him saying that he watched the child better than his parent did all the way to him talking to Tupac saying that he will be needing a seat in Heaven whilst Tupac says that a seat was already saved. Since internet memes are “media representing the viral dissemination of information, these.
..constitute another type of cultural meme…”(“Memes and Viral Content” 2). This definitely shows that with the ever-growing age of the internet, ideas will still be able to circulate and gain exposure.Some say that memes are worth nothing and that they have no purpose. Others say that they are propaganda for bad purposes.
For instance, when the masses got hold of the popular meme Pepe the Frog, there “was a perk in a wave of hateful Pepe memes that were spreading over the darker fringe of the internet…”(Cundy 2). Also, some use the argument that “extremist political groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Ku Klux Klan used memes to spread their message”(“Memes and Viral Content” 3). However, could not it be said that “any image or symbol could be seen as racist or offensive, when used or adapted in such way”(Cundy 2).
For example, one of, if not the most, famous examples would be the swastika. Before the Nazi party took the symbol and related it to their goal, the swastika was used for thousands of years in religious Hindu texts.Memes are a truly great way of uniting a community whilst also spreading a variety of ideas around the world.
Although some may not disagree about a meme’s ability to unite and spread, it is easy to see that they really do. Memes have a rightful place in the culture of today and the culture of tomorrow.