They turn up when you’re least expecting them. They won’t leave you alone. Sometimes you can’t get away, even for a moment just to clear your head. They might even invade your dreams at night. What are these terrifying intrusions? What else: Internet memes.
Currently all the rage, they seem to be everywhere in our virtual online world. Maybe you’ve seen them. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones that doesn’t know what I’m talking about. If so, thank your lucky stars, because they are quickly becoming an indelible part of our shared online existence.
Seriously, what’s with all the memes these days? Back in the days of yore (which in technological terms would be a couple of years ago), we simply had a few video memes on YouTube. And they were bad enough. Who can forget Keyboard Cat? Now we have tons of these new image-based memes. They grow and propagate like germs in a preschool in September. There are loads of them: Goodguy Greg, Confused Fry, Business Cat, the All the Things Guy (pictured above), the Scumbag Guy.
Don’t worry, I won’t name them all. I don’t even think I could, or should. Maybe if you say them all at once, something really bad will happen. Like when you say Candyman three times fast while looking in a mirror.
A meme can start anywhere, and can include anything. Any simple unassuming photo can find itself one day turned into a meme, thus being thrown around all over the Internet while everybody has a good laugh. But what is the point to all of this? Is this our fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol was talking about? Will we all end up as a meme one day?
Like all untoward things, I simply equate it with one of the worst horrors of life: High School. In fact, the Internet itself is just like High School, with its cliques and groups and different social scenes. Facebook is the worst offender of this. And just like we all had little inside jokes we would shout to each other in the hallways at school, now we have the same thing virtually. We can all throw memes at each other as our paths cross during the day on Facebook or Reddit, or wherever it is that you go online to be social.
Going online to be social? That doesn’t sound right … but that’s the world we live in today. Technology will do that to you.
Surely the community-based sites are mostly to blame, since memes are hugely prevalent on social news aggregates like Digg and Reddit. There’s something about the shared experience that brings this all together. Regardless of their popularity, reactions vary immensely to these memes. Some find the trend annoying. Personally, I think it’s all hilarious. I just see it as using an established context to efficiently get a point across. It’s a stylistic use of text and images that has become a natural part of how people communicate online.
For the uninitiated, I’ll make a sample meme. Let’s take the idea of chores. Specifically, let’s say something smarmy about doing the dishes:
Here’s me in the kitchen after my wife makes dinner.
Thoroughly entrenched in mainstream online culture, Internet memes are no longer the underground jokes they started out to be. Now there are even websites that allow you to make your own memes, like Meme Generator. They have all of the most popular meme images, and prompt you to enter your own text. Even I have to say, this whole thing has definitely gotten out of hand. It’s all enough to make you long for the days when we only had Keyboard Cat to contend with.
What do you think? Are memes the height of hilarity, or an awful trend that needs to stop right now?