By Branden Swartz | Assignment Editor
Memes are a cultural phenomenon that have been dominating Internet culture for the past several years. These packets of information are used to convey a variety of cultural ideas, ranging from politics to current events and covering everything in between.
The concept of the ‘meme’ was originally created by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and writer. Dawkins created the terminology in order to explain how culture spreads and mutates from an evolutionary standpoint. From this concept arose the study of memetics, seeking to understand how memes arise and what effect that they would have on society.
But the concept of the meme did not become widespread until the rise of the Internet, with sites like 4chan and Reddit creating the most common viral memes. These memes, or image macros, are used to spread a variety of information, usually focusing on personal opinions and ideas.
A wide variety of memes are popular, but certain ones have become more widespread than others. Whether or not this is the result of being easy to understand, or being the easiest to make, is not known. However, it cannot be said that they aren’t prevalent across the internet.
Memes such as Confession Bear, Philosoraptor, and Bad Luck Brian, are used to convey ideas that are seemingly universal in a culture. Confession Bear is used as a sort of internet confessional, Philosoraptor is used to ‘discuss’ philosophical ideas, and Bad Luck Brian to showcase negative experiences that may not be common but are universally resonant.
To many people, memes appear to be making a mockery of deeper issues, turning things that would once be controversial into jokes. But memes are not meant to be just jokes, rather, they are designed to spread common ideas while also often sparking deeper conversations.
Wading into sites that are central to internet culture, such as Reddit or 4chan, reveals this. Memes are often used as icebreakers of sorts, designed to spark further discussion by opening dialog.
So while memes may appear to be shallow on the surface, they are still what Dawkins envisioned in his original concept. Memes are small ideas that are universal to a culture that spread and often mutate into something more.