The World Of Memes In Digital Culture

In a world defined by digital communication, it is no coincidence that memes play a role in spreading information. Since the birth of the internet, creative users have whipped up images with the intent to bring small chuckles and to lighten up a person's day. The term ‘meme' draws actually back to Richard Dawkins 1976 book, 'The Selfish Gene', referring to the phenomena as a 'mimema' - a Greek term meaning 'that which is imitated'. According to Dawkins, mimema are small cultural units of transmission which pass from person to person through copying or imitation. Memes evolve in a similar way to genes by replicating and keeping the essential parts each time. This post will take a look at the role of memes in digital culture.

How memes have changed the world
“Meme” describes a basic unit of cultural idea or symbol which can be transmitted from one individual to another. In our everyday lives, we use memes as a form of communication. Take the catchphrases and clich├ęs we use to translate non-literal, cultural ideas and the similes and metaphors we verbally use. These all are things that are memes or get turned into memes. For those who are less involved with them perhaps see them as nonsensical creations and a good way to kill time. Many global brands capitalise on using memes to spread awareness about their products and services. Since memes can come in various forms, it makes them a trendy and relevant solution for advertising, promoting or marketing a concept.

The memes that go trending for days
Memes can be anything and everything. They may take the form of words, phrases, quotes, animals and real/fictional characters. As they are of no specific origin, it means that almost anyone can create one and proceed to share it on social sites and feeds in hope to become to go viral. For those who look for their memes to catch on, posting it on sites like Reddit, Tumblr, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook can increase the chances. It is also good to remember that the best memes have short, quippy, and relatable body text. According to wikiHow, there is an assortment of different types including but not limited to traditional types, dank types, edgy types and even wholesome types.

Making the memes matter
As we all know, content is the keystone in bridging the gap between brand and user. Information that is released on the internet can stay forever on the internet. This is very important for those who use memes as part of their content strategy to assess the relevance of the content they put out with their brand. It has to feel authentic in order to evoke action from the consumer. It never ends well brands who wish to jump on the latest trend for publicity. For those looking to use memes for political and social agenda should remember to back up their commentary with references and evidence. 

The dark side of memes
In today’s world of instant information gratification, we have easy hands-on opinions, rationalizations, and superficial descriptions. This vast access makes it easier for us to make quick judgement and assumptions but harder for a layman to grasp the factual knowledge of a topic. Some individuals use memes in the disguise of darker messages. This could be in the form of hate speech, fake news and propaganda or even as content evoking harm. According to Chelsea from NBC news, memes can attribute to ‘caustic humour, bigoted hostility and fetishistic flattening’ in people, bringing out the worst in them.

The copy-rights rules surrounding memes                                                                                          
There is much debate around copyright, sharing, authorship/anonymity and fair use and several creators have now started to or threaten to sue for copyright infringements with memes. In Europe particularly in Germany, the current copyright laws permit private copying of copyright work if there is sufficient remuneration provided to the owner such as attributions, levies and so on. This opens up to discourse on the effectiveness of this rule. What if the meme was not infringing any copyright laws or those who are taking legal action were not the original proprietary owner of the meme or related attributes? This adds complexity to the matter and a need to investigate things from a case-by-case basis which can be difficult and tiresome.

Reference list
Shifman L., “Memes In Digital Culture”, MIT Press, 2013
Stahl, C., “The Best Internet Memes Make Communication An Art Form. But There Is A Dark Side.”, NBC News, 2019
Wikihow team, “How To Make A Meme: 14 Steps (With Pictures)”, 2020                                             
Nair, R., “The Relevance Of Memes In The Millennial Age Of Social”, The Drum, 2018          
Guadamuz, A., “Do Memes Infringe Copyright? | Copyright Licensing Agency” Cla, 2019

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Cedric Noronha said...

In this digital world of memes, one can find a good side and a dark side. There are a lot of memes made against a person or anyone for that matter. Memes can sometimes tarnish one's image. Memes can be funny as well. Good to know about it.

Ben said...

This was a really interesting read. I just watched a show on Pepe the Frog and his journey from being a comic character to a meme to something darker, and it all went back to how people used him.

Surekha said...

This was such a great read. I've never thought about memes past that they're fun to look at and share. I really liked this.

Matt said...

Pretty crazy how popular Memes have become. But a lot of them provide laughter and good fun for people. I just wish, they weren't used to cyberbully and make fun of people.

Kileen said...

I love memes. They almost always brighten up my day when I find a really good or clever one. Unfortunately most people just screen shot memes and repost them. I"m so grateful for original meme creators.

Gervin Khan said...

Such a very interesting article to read and it's so relatable. Memes makes a great wisdom if we really get the essential thought it's conveying not just the fun and joke side it gives.

Sara | said...

I appreciate so much that you discussed the value and importance of memes as well as the dark side. Because it can truly go either way. This was such an interesting read and I learned so much! Thank you for sharing :)

Lyanna Soria said...

Quite an interesting post you got there. I personally find memes fun and can say that it's kinda like a bridge that connects people through the humor of some sort but as all things have, it has both good and bad sides.

Vera Ida said...

Memes are usually funny, but often that humor is injected with wry political or social commentary

Ntensibe Edgar said...

Honestly, I can't live without memes. Who can, anyway? They keep me smiling or laughing or both, all the time that I am online and offline.

Mayuri said...

Oh! This is such an interesting read. I love memes they are funny yet engaging. Sometimes, I find them too sarcastic but then it has become a culture in itself.

Trisha Velarmino said...

I was just looking into this the other day: why am I not into memes while all my friends are?! Surely, it did change the way we communicate and react to things online. I think most of my groups only communicate in memes, it's insane! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Mow! I really enjoyed this post.