Oh, Mary

The Evolution and Social Impact of Memes

April 8, 2019
Shawn Shirey

The dictionary definition of a meme is:

a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.

That’s not the half of it. Memes are now a constant presence in social media, alternatively irritating and humorous, loathsome and essential. Some make excellent points, drawing nods of agreement, or a quick share. Others don’t even make sense, but that may be the point.

Memes don’t always speak to the masses and don’t always employ a universal language or a universal truth. Buried in the subtext of many memes are cultural clues that aren’t obvious to the average viewer. But visual snobbery isn’t a hanging offense.

The culture has spawned its own languages. A language or dialect known as LOLspeak, for example, is used generally used for the ever-present cat pictures. It lends itself to the cuteness of cats and the idea that they are trying to communicate to us “Hoomans.”

The language iterations for animals are endless. Ask people what kind of animal they have and they might answer “I have a doggo” or their fluffy cat could be referred to “floof catto”. Birds are now birbs. Racoons are now generally known as “trash pandas” thanks to internet speak. It would be easy to dismiss such nonsense as ridiculous or infantile. But doing so would ignore the fact that memes employing kitschy nicknames and humorous photos does, in fact bring joy to animal lovers. The value of that joy cannot be ridiculed or dismissed.  

The great thing about memes is anyone can create them. There are countless meme programmer sites out there dedicated to helping people create. The old Andy Warhol phrase comes to mind, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. The real art comes in when we go beyond the cookie cutter Batman or Elmo memes. People might design the art themselves. They might Photoshop a cat head onto a business man’s body and make clever headings.

Memes are not only about humor these days. They can be used to symbolize depression, suicidal thoughts, and even sobriety. While this may seem strange to the average user, they can be a sort of therapy for people going through hard times. They can often be very political and polarizing. Just look up  Trump or Brexit memes and you’ll get an eye full.

We’ve had the pleasure of creating memes for our clients that not only told their story, but quickly gained laughs and attention. The key to creating relatable and sharable content on social media is through people’s hearts. 

For every niche interest out there, there’s a trove of relatable meme content. 

The bottom line is memes have become an important form of communication in pop culture. They can be light and they can certainly be dark and they have become an important mode of communication for all ages.