By AKITA CHAKRABORTY, senior
It is nearly impossible to have access to the Internet without coming across a meme regarding the latest buzz in pop culture, ranging from the reactions of an overly attached girlfriend to musings on what “The Fox” says. Some people may write off such memes as wastes of time or utter nonsense, but memes actually play a significant role in today’s world. They project succinct and humorous interpretations of reality, which reflect and shape cultural discourse, mood, and behavior. Simply put, the magnitude of their significance in our society is simply too great to ignore.
Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” as a cultural unit that “leaps from brain to brain” through a process of imitation. They come in a variety of forms, from jokes and urban legends, to viral videos, funny pictures, and contagious music. Yet despite the wide variety, they each have an equal amount of influence on modern language and behaviors. “Lolcats,” one of the many successful internet memes, reflects on the relationship between humans and their feline counterparts while simultaneously introducing to our vernacular words such as “haz” or “pleez.” These memes shape how the youth, and the entire internet user population, express themselves. In fact, it is not peculiar to see people reference “that hilarious picture” they saw plastered across the internet while chatting online or even in real life to epitomize their feelings or attitude.
As people become increasingly active online, internet memes are also becoming increasingly primary sources of communication. Constant access is an important factor in their influence: memes are constantly available, online, for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The most popular memes of all time are those with pictures of cute animals or funny captions that throw grammar out the window. These cultural phenomena provide quick yet hard-hitting humor that is perfectly tailored to our progressively shorter attention spans. They only take up a few minutes of our time but have a lasting (and possibly corrupting, in the case of spelling and proper grammar usage) impact. The use of the internet and its ability to spread messages, concepts, and ideas has become indispensable to a regularly functioning society.
These images, texts, witticisms, and stories are the mirrors of change in our lives, afforded by the technologies of our time. Culture, by definition, is “the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties, especially by education.” Accordingly, the Internet, with the assistance of memes, is becoming its own global culture; it allows people to connect and develop their intellectual and moral faculties. The Internet and its many channels are as diverse as all the people in the world, and through this diversity there is unity that forms around values such as humor and expression.
As netizens continue to bring into existence a culture within the confines of cyberspace, there is an overflow into the real, tangible world. It is not uncommon to see people refer to Internet memes in daily conversation, share their favorite memes with friends and loved ones, or even use memes to demonstrate complex concepts to their peers
Increasingly, we see internet trends crop up in the real world, blurring the line between the virtual world and actual day-to-day life. Indeed, there may be more merit in the characters behind the Grumpy Cat, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, and Sarcastic Willy Wonka than in the actual memes themselves.