Memes have raided every social media platform in today’s time and age — to an extent that it is arguably impossible to log in to one’s Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts without coming across a meme. In fact, memes are assuming the role of the fastest, safest and most efficient method of communication, especially for the millennials.
Did you know the word “meme” has its foundations in the science of biology? Yes! The term was first coined by Biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976—way before Internet became ‘the thing’—in his book The Selfish Gene as “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”. This 20th century definition of a meme can quite impressively describe the 21st century usage of it. In the present, memes suffice as the carriers of information, with an inclination towards humour and irony, for millions of internet users worldwide.
But why are memes so popular? Well, for one, they are funny. Also, memes are crisp, straightforward and almost always shocking. With the exponential growth of Internet, users insist on consuming maximum information in minimum time. Memes just do that for you! The shock-value associated with memes is another significant contributor to its unanimous adoration. The unexpected U-turn a meme takes is what keeps the consumer interested, and on the edge.
Additionally, memes are also ‘ownerless’! Now, of course it was created and uploaded on social media platforms by someone, but the beauty of a meme lies in the anonymity of its creator. Since memes have no ‘official’ creator so as to say, they can be uploaded, shared, edited and re-edited by anyone and everyone. Memes are nobody’s intellectual property. Considering the fact that memes can often get fairly offensive, this invisibility provides the creator with a lasting armour of sorts.
Memes are mostly consumed (and re-consumed) by teens and 20-something millennials but that does not limit its reach and impact. Since memes are also created by these very people, the memetic interaction then becomes a dialogue between, or rather among, a generation that is highly sensitive to virtual content. An added advantage is that memes are super easy to create and can be fabricated by literally anyone. Consequently, this specific age group and its hyper-connection to the virtual dimension facilitated by Internet allows it to operate not only as 24×7 consumers, but also creators. Millennials then serve as the life-bread and centre of memetic communication. Without their active engagement, memes would sooner, rather than later, perish into the limitless pile of Internet trash.