Haven’t you heard? Memes are taking the social media world by storm! What? You don’t know what a meme is? Well, don’t feel too out of it. To be candid, I only recently learned about memes from one of Paradigm’s court reporters, who was schooled on this trending trend by her 10-year-old neighbor boy. It’s admittedly rather embarrassing to think that someone more than half my age could be one up on me in the social media realm, but on the other hand, it’s sort of the nature of the beast..(s)he who spends the most time online is likely the most informed about what’s going viral.
First, let’s get the pronunciation out of the way – it’s “meem.” Not “me-me” or “me-may;” one syllable, long E. Now…what is it? To my surprise, the concept of memes goes back much further than I anticipated. First coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, he described the word as a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. Its original meaning was, not surprisingly, biological in nature and had nothing to do with social media (perhaps because social media didn’t even exist in 1976). But three decades later, memes are as relevant as ever. These days, a meme means simply this: A concept, behavior or idea that spreads rapidly; most commonly, over the internet.
Memes are everywhere. You have seen them, and you have probably even passed them on to others. Little did you know that you have been perpetuating the very definition of memes all the while.
Here are some examples of memes:
This Korean pop song was uploaded to YouTube on July 15, 2012. Since then, the phenomenon of this song has absolutely exploded. It now has over 1.2 BILLION views. No, that’s not a typo, and I am not kidding you. Now THAT’S what you call viral. It also won the MTV award for Video of the Year in 2012 and is the most “liked” video in YouTube history. I actually unknowingly participated in making it a meme before I even knew what a meme was by viewing and sharing it multiple times.
The year 2011 was huge for planking. I’d venture to say it has lost some momentum this year, but it still remains a good example of a meme. To refresh your memory, photos of people planking in odd places and at seemingly random times started to pop up all over the internet and were then proliferated via social media. For example, here is the cast of The Today Show demonstrating their planking capabilities.
The “Ermahgerd” Girl
Ermahgerd (think “OMG!”) Girl is an example of a meme in its most recognizable format: A photo with words, often conveying humor. EMG Girl usually has words that are spelled phonetically as if spoken with, say, a retainer in one’s mouth. Apparently enough people find this hilarious to cause more and more variations of EMG Girl memes to populate the internet. Other memes poke humor at situations relevant to the here and now. Take, for example, this meme taking aim at the NFL replacement officials. If you’re a fan of dry wit, memes are for you!
Anyone can create a meme through sites such as www.memecreator.org. Even if you’re not a fan, memes can present unique marketing opportunities. For instance, the new Old Spice Guy established his commercials as memes and the result was all his YouTube videos got millions of hits. As well, the Dos Equis beer meme have established Jonathan Goldsmith as The Most Interesting Man in the World. We’ve already seen his memes brand the world of court reporting!
Love them or hate them, memes are here to stay. Find a good one? Tweet me at @angelanicolebp