Memes: A social media gene gone wild

I was eavesdropping on my teenage kids the other day and they were talking about a meme they saw on Instagram. I thought to myself, what exactly is a meme and how does it relate to social media.  So I opened up Wikipedia and researched meme and there before me was this extensive description of this word – wow!  According to Wikipedia a meme is “an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”. The site also mentioned that they closely resemble genes in the way that they self-replicate and mutate. I wonder what Darwin would think.

Richard Dawkins coined the term in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins stated that if you want to understand life “don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology”. So here we have it – the power of ideas spreading at an alarming rate through social media.

So what exactly is a meme in the world of social media.  Well, it generally is an image, text or video that is humorous in nature.  It is any digital content that is passed from one to another via the internet.  It can be altered slightly when passed along very much like the game ‘broken telephone’.  A good example of this is ‘Be Like Bill‘ which is a meme which can altered by each person to convey a message regarding life choices. Although usually humorous it at times can be passive-aggressive in nature as its intent is to make fun of people.


Memes have certainly taken the world of social media by storm.  Everybody remembers ‘Gangnam Style‘ by South Korean rapper Psy that went viral in 2012.  It was a ‘music’ video that poked fun at the people who live in the Gangnam District of Seoul, Korea. When I watched it (again) on February 10 it has had 2,759,093,891 views.  What a marketer’s dream.


The main reason why memes are so popular is that they are easy to create and you can use them to convey a message that is simple and yet effective.  In the social media world you only have a few seconds to grab one’s attention and a meme does it so well.  People generally find them funny and will want to share them – great.  But what happens if they go too far and end up offending someone? Well, now there are memes that poke fun at the issue of being offended.


So…what is your viewpoint of memes? If you like memes click here to read about a University offering a major in Meme Studies.



facebook  Memes: a social media phenomena that has gone wild. Are they here to stay?


twitterbird_rgb  #Memes: a #social media #gene gone wild?




Links: memes


8 thoughts on “Memes: A social media gene gone wild

  1. Hi. This was quite an interesting read. I didn’t know the origin of the term or even much information about “gene” phenomenon. However I have spent many hours scrolling past memes on sites such as 9gag and Imgur, most of which was throughout my time in college courses that didn’t thrill me all that much. It is true that memes are a great means of communication and are used daily in social media as a means of getting a point across. If you want to become more involved in the culture I suggest you spend some time on 9gag.

  2. Growing up as a Millennial, I’ve seen firsthand the outbreak of memes and I think it’s amazing. Such a great way to get a point across in a lighthearted and funny way. So many are relatable that I see them shared over many platforms. I definitely think they will continue to be on the rise as more and more people are moving to sharing pictures rather than text posts.

  3. Love ’em! I could have had so much fun if memes were around when I was a youth. I create them and share them almost on a daily basis. It’s my way of injecting an inside joke to a mainstream photo with the person I am creating it for.
    Maybe it’s just my quirky sense of humour. No apologies!

  4. Hi Ellen,

    Thanks for your comment! Although I haven’t created any yet I do find them funny. Especially the ones using Kermit the frog – he seems like the ideal meme.

    Enjoy creating your memes.


  5. Very entertaining post! I am ashamed to admit that I am still not 100% sure how to pronounce “meme”. Is it “meem” or “mem”? Regardless, reading them is quite an enjoyable way to waste time while I procrastinate doing my homework or wait in the Dr’s office. I find it remarkable the reach that some of them have once they become viral.

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