5 reasons why memes are more than images on your phone

Jimmy Gow, Reporter

Origins of memes 

The concept of memes has been around decades before the first posts with bold text stamped over images graced our screens. In 1976, Richard Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’ and comes from the Greek word for imitation, mimeme. Now, internet memes have morphed from ideas mutating from random change and spreading as a form of natural selection, certain ideas surviving due to favorable traits, to ideas and concepts that are deliberately altered by human creativity. Consider memes as a form of virus, only this virus infects the mind with ideas and spreads by cultural transmission. 

Memes have life cycles

Memes live and die. When memes are at the forefront of public consciousness, that meme can be considered alive, though saying a meme is currently alive isn’t really a thing. At some point, when people stop posting that meme or its variations, the meme will be considered dead.

Memes have defined the last decade

Any notable event that captures the public’s attention can be turned into a meme. Memes are used as a way to quickly express to as many people as possible an idea. By virtue of a meme’s ease of creation, ideas can be shared in a very short time span, allowing maximum ‘infection’ of a group of people.

Memes have impacts on the real world

In the Southeastern country of Myanmar, the Rohingya people were persecuted and violently expelled from the nation. The Myanmar military used facebook memes to incite distrust and hatred for the Rohingya people within the population of Myanmar. Refugees fleeing the country, rapes, murders, and detention camps all point to the effectiveness of using memes to draw out pre-existing prejudices and amplify them.  

Memes can be seen throughout history

Memes are not a new thing and concepts or ideas have been spreading long before the phrase was coined. An example of this would be a meme from the 40s that spread across Europe. Kilroy was popularized in World War II and became associated with American soldiers and airmen.

Memes have themes 

Memes are varied, and yet have the ability to fit into themes. Memes can be about individual aspects of something while still saying a lot about the whole. Pirates have popped up in memes since the early 2000’s. Memes like ‘You Are a Pirate’ remained relevant for several years. More recently, sea shanties have become popular on Tik Tok and could be considered an extension of pirate memes.