What is a Meme?

An Internet meme is a unique form of media that’s spread quickly online, typically via social media. Memes are interesting or amusing pictures, videos, or GIFs that frequently evolve. It represents a common idea or feeling, usually humor, that relates to a culture or subculture. A meme is usually a cultural inside joke that’s easily recognizable among mass audiences. Memes have transformed into a cultural phenomenon and are currently used daily by social media users.

A biologist, Richard Dawkins, created the term “meme” in 1976. He identified similarities between genes and memes since ideas and concepts spread rapidly between people and evolve as they go, which is similar to the gene mutation process. The stages of a meme include hearing about the meme or viewing it, understanding it, changing the context to fit your world view, and using it in whatever way the user deems fit.

The first meme can be traced back to 1996 with the dancing baby GIF, or “Baby Cha Cha.” It was shared widely and even appeared on national television. However, meme popularity didn’t rise until the 2010s. The first memes created could remain popular for months or years, but meme popularity has decreased due to the increase in competition and creation. Memes share more information than simple text ever could, which attributes to its popularity.

Types of memes

  • Image macro meme: A simple, expressive image with block text. It’s meant to invoke an emotional state and acknowledges a similar experience between the viewer and creator.
  • GIF: An animated image or soundless video that is on a continuous loop. GIFs became popular as social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, were released.
  • Video: Video memes became popular with the release of Youtube in 2005.
  • Advice animals: An animal’s head photoshopped on top of a rainbow background.
  • Demotivator: Inspirational or motivational images with a black background and white text.
  • Comics: Includes multiple images and texts in a block format and is similar to a newspaper layout.
  • Dank memes: Unique memes that differ from the popular format. Dank memes usually are based off nonsense and require research to understand its context to the layman user.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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