Digital communication is constantly advancing, leaving memes to take a unique place in our culture and language
“DO IT! JUST DO IT.” A few ambiguous words, now known by many, were enough to stir the Internet. Multitudes of edited pictures and videos were generated from one small video clip of actor Shia LaBeouf’s motivational speech and sent all around the web in the middle of 2015. All of this content used the medium of one specific subject, but not all attempted to convey the same message. The Internet uses several other memes similar to LaBeouf’s monologue for the same purpose.
The students in Melissa Haines’s media arts classes occasionally make memes as fun side-activities. Although she is not incredibly knowledgeable on the subject, Haines said a meme is “taking an image from … popular culture and putting some sort of text on top of it.”
Haines believes that students cannot escape memes in their lives.
“They’re on social media, they’re wherever you turn, pretty much; you’re going to be exposed to them,” she said.
Other definitions of a meme exist, however. A meme is “an inside joke distributed through the Internet,” as junior Mark Malkin said. Wikipedia defines a meme as “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” The two latter definitions open the door to a wide variety of Internet activities and images, further than some would consider to be truly memes.
“There’s definitely a broad scope of memes,” Malkin said as to the existence of memes on local, regional, and international levels.
Many memes, including Pepe, originate from the website 4chan. However, the memes that begin in 4chan are not limited to the website, as evident by their strong presence in programs and websites like iFunny, Twitter and Instagram.
Memes can both spring up in groups of friends and become huge, with the world recognizing certain photos in an instant. The popularity of a meme often depends upon how many people connect with it. A meme that begins as an inside joke between a few people will likely remain relatively unknown, but a meme regarding a profound event will gain more attention.
Although Internet memes focus on unique topics, such as questionable dance moves from the singer Drake, they can each convey varied messages with the one subject. Most memes exist solely to entertain but do so in versatile fashions. Many memes address the audience with a familiar scenario to cause it to relate to the meme’s creator. These memes often serve to tease human flaws and actions and bring few complex thoughts to the viewer.
Other memes, however, blend humor with political commentary to inform the audience and attempt to persuade it. Internet memes regarding the 2016 presidential election garnered much attention on the web, particularly memes involving memorable quotes from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Entire categories of memes, such as “triggered” memes, deliver both comedy and social commentary outside of specific politics.
Memes are not limited to secular subjects, either. Christians have already created their own category of memes despite the material present in many other Internet memes that can be viewed as obscene and offensive. In the eyes of many, Christian memes focus on topics that supersede all others and take ultimate importance in life.
The impact of memes is visible on both local and national levels. Any blank space open to public expression will likely reflect the interests of a society or group of people. And, although occasionally barren, the chalkboard in the Learning Center captures the trending thoughts of many students, particularly regarding memes.
However, the varied uses of memes brings consequences. An article on Hillary Clinton’s official website involves the meme of Pepe the Frog. The article’s author, Emily Chan, discredits Trump because of his use of Pepe on Twitter. She claims that the meme has undergone a transition from an innocent trend into a symbol related to white supremacy because some people created white supremacist material using the meme. Whether these accusations were justified or not, this situation displays a large-scale impact of a meme.
Just as texting added to language and communication, memes may soon be accepted as a legitimate form of human interaction and less as a topic of humor. As communication quickens, modes of communication will simplify. A picture, phrase, or audio clip will be able to convey emotions in an instant. Fear, suffering, joy, and sympathy could all be communicated among humans faster than ever with memes. But, all of these possibilities rely on whether or not today’s definition of a meme is given to future generations.