What is a Meme?

Discover the origins and impact of memes in internet culture. Learn about different types of memes, their characteristics, and their role in shaping society.

The Origin of Memes

At its core, a meme is a piece of cultural information that spreads rapidly within a group of people. The term ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’ to describe how ideas replicate and evolve through human culture, similar to the way genes propagate in biological organisms.

Characteristics of a Meme

  • Virality: A meme must have the potential to spread quickly across a large audience.
  • Adaptability: Memes often evolve and take on new forms as they spread.
  • Relevance: Memes are typically humorous or relatable to current events or popular culture.

Types of Memes

There are several types of memes, including image macros, viral videos, and catchphrases. Image macros, in particular, are a popular form of meme that pairs an image with text to convey a humorous or satirical message. One well-known example is the ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ meme, which uses stock photos to tell a story about infidelity.

Impact of Memes

Memes have become a significant part of internet culture and are often used as a form of social commentary or satire. They can also be powerful tools for spreading information, raising awareness, or even influencing elections.

Case Study: Harambe

In 2016, the death of a gorilla named Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo sparked a wave of memes and internet jokes. The incident quickly became a cultural phenomenon, with memes ranging from humorous tributes to critical commentary on the media’s handling of the story.

Statistics on Memes

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 55% of young adults aged 18-29 have shared a meme online, highlighting the widespread popularity of memes among younger generations. Additionally, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok have become hubs for meme-sharing and creation.

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