Cultural Evolution Through Memes
The internet provides us with an infinite amount of constantly changing content. Regardless of where internet users are on the globe, we are all connected by global internet culture, a culture driven by memes.
By now internet users are well versed with the global phenomenon of internet memes, commonly called a meme. In an internet culture of creativity, viral content and participation, memes have become a revolution for transferring ideas to friends, family and the mass of global internet users.
At first glance, memes appear to be a basic joke designed for a quick laugh, but they’re surprisingly sophisticated. Meme creators use images, videos and captions to express ideas and opinions. If relatable, the meme, and the information it carries can go viral, spreading to millions of people around the world.
Where did memes come from?
Well they were always around, according to science.
In the famous book “The Selfish Gene”, biologist Richard Dawkins introduced the word meme in 1976. He called it a “unit of cultural transmission or imitation”.
Fashion trends, nursery rhymes, catchphrases, and jokes are examples of this concept. We can all relate to twinkle twinkle little star, despite the fact that we heard it from different sources and in different parts of the world. Memes are the same.
We use memes to share parts of our lives, our culture, our opinions and to simply share jokes.
According to Dawkins, memes carry information, are created, replicated, and are transmitted from one person to another. Memes can evolve, mutating and undergoing natural selection. Dawkins believed that memes followed the same rules of evolution, using natural selection to survive.
In a world that is more connected now than ever before, memes, a medium to transmit information, must possess certain qualities to survive. If people can’t relate the meme will be ineffective and fail to pass on the intended message in a viral manner.
Think of memes as cultural DNA. Memes are to culture, what DNA is to biology.
Should we take memes seriously?
Memes are a medium with which information is spread and often goes viral. It is very easy to spread messages to a mass of internet and social media users to directly impact their mindsets.
The biting humour of memes is often used to delegitimize political messages across the globe.
In the 2016 US presidential elections, many viral memes reflected the narrative of Hillary Clinton’s political inadequacies, and Donald Trump’s ability to relate and identify with everyday Americans. The Trump campaign won the “meme war” taking maximum advantage of global internet culture.
Memes are regularly used to promote political ideologies. Their widespread use has created a global familiarity, and their ability to connect millions of people behind a single message can be used to devastating impact.
Memes have also been used in many awareness campaigns and to disseminate important messages. Meme creators can use one of the many available meme templates or create their own, then add information to make it contextually relevant to their friends.
The internet and the global culture which has emerged from it will continue to evolve. The internet has given people what they crave most, to connect with others, to share experiences and opinions and to be recognised. Memes have become a catalyst for imagination, driving the global internet culture and connecting us with the rest of the world.