It Memes A Lot to Me

Memes are prolific, important and unaffected by the scorns of your meme-shaming-distant-relative-Aunt-Jenny


(Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

By Katie Morris

Today, memes are the easily identifiable backbone of millennial internet culture. Angry Arthur, Tea Kermit, Sarcastic Spongebob and Yodelling Kid are all memes that united the internet in a brief, shared inside joke.

Regardless of, or perhaps in spite of, vocal disapproval, modern culture has embraced the grassroots power of memes. Memes are not simply a form of entertainment but rather a medium of ideas. Because the meme underworld pulses as a subtle undercurrent relatively impervious from overreaching manipulation, memes can revolutionize culture in ways unachievable through explicit control. Memes are prolific, important and unaffected by the scorns of your meme-shaming-distant-relative-Aunt-Jenny.

To start, memes deserve due acknowledgement for their position in the entertainment industry. Like movies, television, and books, memes are crafted to entertain, unite and engage audiences.

Once a meme is created, it spreads through Twitter (the classic raw-meme provider), Instagram (Twitter’s visually cultivated opponent), Tumblr (for the edgy grunge) or Facebook (the middle-aged-mother playground), where users then choose to replicate, alter or reject this meme. Some memes achieve enough stardom to transcend generational and cultural differences (like the dress, which is gold and white), while others circulate among a smaller niche group (@jesulituniversity).

Regardless of orbital sphere, memes are beloved for the humor, satire, and realism. They are a form of original, creative, and funny entertainment with enough fans to rival America’s traditional pastimes.

Memes are also one of the most effective forms of idea communication.

Officially, a meme is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture” (Merriam-Webster). Internet memes are generally videos, images, text or some a combination of all three.

The basic structure is comprised of two parts: the format and the message. Formats can be frequently replicated and personalized skeletal structures (“Is this a pigeon”) or completely variable (“Damn Daniel”). Limited by simple graphics and short words, simplicity is a central aspect of memes. Only a few ideas can be communicated, and most meme formats require rudimentary interpretation. This non-convoluted presentation is inviting and easy to transfer.

Meanwhile, the comedic element appeals to entertainment and encourages a participant to continue. This ubiquity is an important source of memes’ power.

To facilitate meaningful change, memes seize on this ubiquity to spread revolutionary movements. This meme magic is found in the potent power of memes to deliver a message. As a social movement, memes wield the power of dissenting thought.

Within meme culture, participants, shielded by the anonymity of the internet, shamelessly critique life. The dissatisfied and disillusioned use social media as an outlet to express frustration by mocking unfavorable aspects of society.

Memes are particularly powerful for this purpose because they present a sideways argument instead of a direct attack. A meme highlights an issue but does not engage in an active shaming, therefore lessening the likelihood of defensive responses. Readers are then allowed to interpret and judge validity.

By weaponizing cultural information, transmission, and replication, Because the main target of memes is culture, memes are immensely powerful weapons of ideological war.

As with all media, memes are not without fault. That said, memes need to be approached with caution, not fear. A meme’s greatest asset, its simplicity, also renders memes simplified versions of complex and nuanced arguments.

As grassroot media, memes are prone to presenting narrow, one-sided views and are easy harbingers of misinformation. However, it is wrong to place blame on memes; it is a reader’s responsibility to evaluate and research the messages presented in memes. The purpose of memes is not to provide reliable information or replace balanced discourse but create a complementary form of discussion.

When the internet revolution came, it offered opportunities for otherwise powerless individuals to contribute to society. Memes are a symptom of this new ability, and it is time we properly evaluate their contribution. Ready or not, memes will continue to change the world by reshaping society. I suggest you be ready.