Week 4: Understanding Memes!


        In my personal opinion, meme is a two dimensional element consisting of figurative and a textual way of delivering a point across in various ways that may have sarcastic or an aggressive attitude/tone. As seen they most commonly appear on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. Most of the times memes carry a funny component to them which is what, I think, makes them most popular on different social media platforms. Initially, I like think of a meme as an image illustrating daily life humor and jokes about real life issues. However, it is also seen that memes may be related making reference to some current global event. In a more formal fashion, the word meme was first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1979 and it has defined by many individuals in various ways. Davison elaborates on Dawkins’s meme as originally “…described any cultural idea or behavior. “Fashion, language, religion, sports–all of these are memes.” (Davison p.9). However, it is argued that today we only think of meme as the funny images posted on the internet that spread very fast online. I like this very specific definition because it takes into account each and every element of an original ‘meme’ and interrelates the offline meme versus online meme.

         Memes are defined as “units of culture which spread virally through commentary, imitations and parody” (Kendzior, S). In the article, ” Power of the Meme” she elaborates the significance of internet/online memes as it relates to an individual’s participation. She emphasizes on the fact that memes are taking on the role of real action. She says, “Memes tell us more about the people creating and spreading them than they do about the topics they address.” (Kendzior, S). This is a way of saying that instead of paying attention and focusing on the main topic, memes serve a form of distraction. They do initiate great discussions and are also a form of amusement but the take away point is often missed. Also, popularity and existence of online memes is dependent on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Memebase, memecentre and such. They are a way for memes to be famous/gain popularity. Sarah, in her article, also talks about memes playing role of an outlet for emotions and unsaid words. In comparing people who have internet access or not she writes, it really does not matter because ” But they too contend with political and economic powerlessness.” (Kendzoir, S). This demonstrates that both parties, with internet or not, find themselves challenged by political and economic hopelessness and there is where memes play a role of providing a way to let people talk. She mentions, “They are an outlet and a catharsis.” (Kendzoir, S.) That being said, I agree with Sarah’s argument about memes creating an illusion of participation among people. This is so because many people who have access to the internet would involve themselves in creating memes and taking it as a way of participation. Simply, creating a graphical post which then becomes viral within few minutes to hours does not constitute participation. from her point of view. Furthermore, Sarah writes, “They can stimulate discussion, but as with any debate within a self-selecting audience, their political transmutability is limited.” This exactly explains my personal opinion relative to her argument about the actual message being missed in a meme while we as ‘participants’ don’t see the purpose behind a particular image.
          As far as cultural value of a meme is concerned, I believe, memes have become an essential part of internet life. They can be found literally on almost every social media site. Sean Rintel describes memes as, “nuggets of cultural currency” relating to the cultural significance of the meme and highlighting their importance by calling them the currency of culture. One reason memes should be taken of importance is that they stimulate great discussion which connects people all around the world. Also, to some extent they serve as a mode of gaining information and assuring to be knowledgeable about the events going on in the world. As Sean Rintel writes, “Understanding memes is an important way to keep a finger on current trends or the appeal of long term trends…”. Meme has become quite popular and a humorous way of communication. On the other end of the spectrum, a meme may be thought of carrying a negative value as there is a factor of anonymity associated with it. Davison mentions that since there are no copy-write or authorship issues, some individuals may choose to use memes as a medium to convey their negative and hateful judgemental thoughts based on racism, gender stereotypes and such over the internet initiating conflicts. Therefore, on one hand it is excellent to be creative and be a part of humour generated by memes but the message that they possess should also be assimilated.





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