What are memes and why do people love them so much?

Each of us, for sure, to spend a good evening or just entertain ourselves, drove into the search for “Funny Memes” or “Top 10 memes for friends”. But did you understand where the origins of memes are?

How did the phrase “internet meme” come about?

The very first person to use the term “meme” was Richard Simon in his handwritten works on zoology in 1904. The concept was used only in this discourse for a long time and meant the ability to replicate – to create one’s own copies. However, already in 1976, the term was picked up by Richard Dawkins, who used it in his book on evolutionary biology as “a unit of information that behaves like a gene.” As examples of a meme, he cited trends, melodies, construction technologies, set expressions, and much more.

Decades later, around the 2000s, on the Internet and on anonymous forums, in parallel with the rest of the world, they began to create pictures with matching captions, creating a comical imaginary situation. Then they were called memes. Homogenization with Dawkins’s memes came out – it is not known whether it is random or not. Soon, for understanding, “Internet-” was added to the name, and Internet memes were obtained.

Internet meme distribution principles

Not all information is subject to random and indiscriminate distribution from one Internet user to another, but only that which in any way leaves many users indifferent to it. Initially, anecdotes, jokes, links to content, and files with media objects of a predominantly entertaining nature (first pictures, then flash videos, sound recordings, videos) were similarly distributed through the Internet, but special attention was paid to the phenomenon, then called “Internet memes”, turned with the advent of this name. Whether it’s even offensive memes or any other type of meme, they make people smile, giving self-irony or irony to a particular situation.

The Internet is such an important technology for memes that memes that are actively distributed through it have received a special name – Internet memes (jokes, anecdotes, etc. were successfully distributed even before the invention of the Internet).

Why have memes gained such popularity among Internet users?

Memes can be compared in this case with folklore works, where the author is not important. They are distributed through forcing (active promotion), as they are often created based on an informative occasion, that is, a situation or situation that a large number of users will understand. Memes fall somewhere between funny and important to people: they use strange news to reflect on the situation.

If you delve into this topic, memes can also be compared with poetry: this is a concentrated work, at the same time sharply social, funny, and satirical, to some extent mocks some social flaws. But at the same time, they are shorter than an anecdote and a poem. A small picture or phrase can contain a high concentration of meaning, they can hurt or touch us to the core. They have a high impact force due to brevity.

According to research by neurophysiologists, everything that causes strong emotions (whether positive or negative) is much better remembered. Memes remain in our memory because they evoke emotions in one way or another. The more meaningful and concise the signature and the picture, the better they complement each other, the wider the impact of the meme. As a result, people repeat them – and memes become viral, they are used everywhere.

Have marketers also joined in the use of memes?

Yes, memes have been used a lot by marketers lately. Here they have two different approaches: “speak the language of the reader” and simply create a product, understanding how memes are really made: without effort, maintaining a casual pleasant style.

It turns out that memes have several properties?

Yes. But the main ones are: it is always funny, relevant, potentially viral, and often absurd. Researchers call a meme a media object that accidentally acquires its popularity.

At the same time, there is no exact list of properties. Memes are now rarely studied seriously. If you communicate with linguists, psychologists, neurophysiologists, read studies of memes, it is unlikely that you will be able to study the questions that interest us about memes and, in general, understand this as it should. Modern memes have not yet had time to consider even from the point of view of linguistics.

What are Internet memes?

Memes have many classifications. They can be divided according to a variety of criteria. For example, according to the method of origin, they distinguish:

  • Intentionally created (the so-called “forced meme”, which are created by marketers or dull users to promote the brand or themselves)
  • Co-opted (those that seem to arise spontaneously, but are instantly picked up by interested parties and untwisted for some purpose)
  • Self-generating (absolutely folk art, pure meme, viral).

According to semiotics, memes are usually divided into visual, auditory, textual, and mixed.

  • Visual – the most massive. These are your favorite pictures, macros, demotivators, advice, comics, photo toads, faces, and so on and so forth.
  • Auditory – songs, slogans, mottos. Yes, these are also memes.
  • Text – any verbal expressions, neologisms, poems, slogans that exist in text form.
  • Mixed-video memes can be attributed to them because they combine visual and auditory features. According to some sources, mixed (creolized) memes include pictures with text, because they combine both visual and verbal content.

What is a meme anyway?

Memes have different forms: from a word or an icon to irony over an article or post. But the very fact that it can be expressed in one picture makes us understand that Internet memes and those same Dawkins memes are different things. The Internet meme has gone further than a simple “unit of information”.

I would call modern memes a mini-narrative, which in the future can tell researchers a lot about the culture and language of the users who use them. This is folklore that is created by the people, shows what they care about and what they pay attention to, raises problems that concern society, discusses some encouraging and positive topics or intellectual topics.

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