By now, you’re probably getting tired of seeing the latest “Sh*t [insert subject here] Says” video on YouTube or the latest Jeremy Lin pun. Admit it, we all have at least one meme that we love to hate or wish that they could make a better variation.
How did we become fascinated with that random video or that quoted photo? Well, let’s look at what defines a meme and what makes memes popular. First of all, a meme is a video, photo, quote, text, or something similar that has come out of nowhere to the Internets. Second, the best-loved (or best-reviled) memes has to spread to other users to pique their interest. Just because you make a picture and add some funny text doesn’t necessarily mean it will go viral. Lastly, it’s not a meme until someone makes a parody or their own response/variation.
What makes memes interesting has always been that something unintentional can be made funny or fascinating. That means that something obscure that in normal forms of communication would be passed over has somehow found value on the Internet. Although it’s unclear when the first memes originated, according to the Internet Memes timeline on dipity.com, it made its real footing in the early 1990s and skyrocketed as what we call social media presented itself to millions of Internet users worldwide.
Indeed, one the earliest and most often imitated memes—“All Your Base Are Belong To Us”—came from someone posting a GIF to a video game quotes forum in 1998 from an obscure Japanese video game called “Zero Wing.” Largely due to its bizarre use of the English language, the meme spread slowly but surely. According to the website h2g2.com, by the end of that year “altered images of various road signs, cereal packets and other photographs containing the words…had started to appear, and by 2001 the phenomenon was in full swing.”
What did “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” do to catch the attention of the Internets? Anything obscure is fair game on the Internet and that something done one way will always have a counterpart somewhere (multiplied by a hundred thousand).
Flash forward to today, where it seems like every few minutes on Facebook someone is posting their latest variation of a meme. Social media has greatly helped with the production and dissemination of memes to habitual Internet surfers. Instead of a few memes cluttering our news feed, we’ve got many to look at these days. One current example of this new generation of memes is “Sh*t Girls Say.” According to the website KnowYourMeme, since “Sh*t Girls Say” made its debut as a web series on YouTube in December, numerous parodies have been made joking about numerous stereotypical quotes ranging from single girls to Asian parents.
What does the future hold for memes? As long as the Internet and social media exist, memes will still make us laugh, make us angry and make us confused. For social media mavens, a meme is one more way to get your traffic across many channels.