There is a powerful digital symbiotic relationship that has manifested online. It’s more common than a computer virus and PC’s unfortunate bondage. Fortunately, it’s a much more friendly symbiosis and not parasitic. Like the latter partnership, it is a man-created entity. But it goes one step further and even enters a human’s mind (Crazy, right?). This captivating modern time digital-union is Memes and Facebook.
Memes aren’t exactly new. Though they haven’t had quite the hosting capabilities and opportunities that Facebook provides. With the inception and growth of the online community in the past 15 years, memes and Facebook have become like peas and carrots, marriage and divorce, salt and pepper, prison and inmates, bread and butter, promiscuous sex and disease (well, you get the picture).
One thing this interdependence tends not to be, is too serious. Not that memes are not without deeper messages. They are used in that manner as well. As a matter of fact, themes have a dark side, and can be quite damaging when in an invective form. But in a world where bad news spreads like wild fire, memes tend to be more of a welcomed medium of laughter. They too, spread just as, and at times even faster, than bad news.
It’s easy to acknowledge at face value what memes are. They are instantly recognizable and passed along as if they were a virus. Ironically, they’re usually a welcomed mind infection. Memes are ostensibly simple. Yet, there is more behind the scenes in regard to them and their digital mutualism with Facebook. We are going to elaborate on these entertaining forms of imagery, their existence on social media, and the life of their own that they take on.
A New Language Is Born Online
The English language adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” may have never been quite so eloquently exemplified in literal form as through the meme. Memes generate specific to widespread meaning and understanding. They are dressed and understood with little to no words.
In essence, a meme becomes an instant or direct message. At times, they are understood by the masses. Other times, memes are localized and understood colloquially; or exclusively to a select few as an “inside joke.” Their qualities in parallel to speech start to show. Let’s look at the definition to begin our understanding of the functional abilities of memes and how they become a form of language:
Meme – An element of a culture or system of behavior passed from one individual to others by non genetic means, especially imitation.
These units carry cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that are transmitted from one mind to another through:
These and other imitable material or phenomena are used through a mimicked theme.
Humans use symbols to comprise language and express ideas through letters and words into definition. We haven’t stopped there in our use of symbols to communicate. For example, legible ‘notes’ or ‘tablature’ are used by musicians to read, compose, and orchestrate music; a whole other form of language. Similarly, like company logos, religious beacons, and traffic signs, memes are the newest form of symbolic understanding.
And just the same as any language, memes create and spread meanings and emotions. Quite regularly, a person will simply post a meme to convey how they’re feeling, share a laugh, or prove a point without traditional sentence structure. Like words, the same thoughts and understandings are created on a mass scale through the influence of memes.
Memes as lexicon is reminiscent of Ebonics – American black English regarded as a language in its own right rather than as a dialect of standard English. Ebonics has influenced American English and is emulated and used throughout the culture. What was once popularly mocked and labeled ‘Jive’ (watch a clip from the movie Airplane for an example), has become a common form of language.
Many memes are incorporated with Ebonics. Today, most people understand the use and meaning when Ebonics is paired into a meme. If not, through the viral effect and visual combination in the meme, they learn to understand. The inception and use of memes may not have been scoffed at, or to the degree of, how Ebonics was or is, but they do share in a new form of dialogue in our culture.
Interestingly, meme language exists almost exclusively through smartphones and computers; via online, text, email, and by way of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. As technology grows, so do our complex and convenient forms of communication.
Hanging Out On Facebook
Facebook has become the pinnacle of culture reflection. People share and communicate in ways we just might not have imagined back in 2005. Now, people will share to anyone anywhere random thoughts (I’m quite guilty of this), a favorite song, a picture of a beautiful place or human, an insightful article (hint, hint), family photos, and of course, the meme.
Memes are just plain fun and easy to use to cleverly convey a message or share a laugh on the Facebook platform.
Once upon a time, emoticons were quite the hype. Then the emoji stepped in. Remember the Emoji Movie? Both are still fun to use in their own right. But the meme’s use snowballed and took over the popularity of symbolic zany expression on social media. There’s practically no contest between the meme and the emoticon/emoji effects on users.
The fact is Facebook is a very visual experience. Too many words, for the most part, you will lose most of your audience. But as fast as people breeze through/down their personal page, memes just catch the eye. They ‘pop out’ and stop people in their tracks. It’s almost like hypnotism. Next thing the user knows, they’re ingesting the meme. They enjoy the experience. The transfer is complete and it has entered the human mind. The following step usually involves the user passing the meme along.
It’s part of the Facebook experience. It’s part of the meme’s life cycle.
Life In The Meme
The meme has been compared to an egregor – In occultism, it is a concept representing a thought form, an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people.
Like the meme, an egregor is symbiotic. Similar to the hive mind, egregors and memes are a kind of collective consciousness that is created when people in awareness come together for a common purpose. These circumstantial events, symbols, or signs create the same thoughts at the same time to the group.
Like a person, memes express an idea, behavior, or style through their own type of personality or characteristic. They act as influencers when they spread these qualities from one person to another within a culture. The aim is to convey a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning in its representation; as a politician would. Also, like a person, they die off and are forgotten, or become legendary status and live in infamy.
A meme’s life force is abstract and digital. They end up symbiotically living in the human mind; extracted from the online world and our high-tech gear. People are becoming more involved, attached, and dependent on technology. As they continue to merge with technology, they will take on more of its traits; and vice versa. Language and thought processes are being exchanged between us and technology. Science fiction is becoming a reality.
No, memes are not the new AI. But rest assure, AI will communicate with humans from time to time through the language of the meme (Right before world domination no doubt).
Memes Going Viral
Yes, times, technology, and terminology are changing rather fast. There was a time, not long ago, when no one would consider ‘going viral’ an exciting or pleasant experience. But now, all the kids are raving about it! Adults are on board too. (Well, if they’re making money through the process, anyway.)
Facebook and social media allow trends to reach a larger audience almost instantly. This digital world and networking puts all cultural movements and news on display practically as fast as they evolve. Memes are reflections of these cultural trends.
Going viral happens through processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance that influences reproductive success; for better or worse. This process spreads, by way of humorous image, video, GIF, piece of text that is copied, often varied, and spread rapidly by internet users.
With memes, there’s both less viewing and less reading. In this fashion, they are more likely to get shared faster than videos or scripts and therefore move with a higher viral velocity. And the thing about going viral is, that there is no stopping it.
The results can be devastatingly embarrassing if one is the butt of the joke. Here, bad actions, or even a candid facial expression, can go viral and forever tarnish a person’s image. It happens within the meme fairly commonly. Actors, athletes, political figures, musicians, and unsuspecting random people, have become a stock joke on social media sites by way of the meme.
With a platform and audience as large as Facebook and its affiliations, popular opinion is reflected, and a consensus is made. A meme’s definition is born and then it goes public from there. As they spread, they mutate through variations, personal experiences, and translations to fit narratives; becoming more of a staple form of communication. Unfortunately, for the unsuspecting victims of the viral frenzy, they too have become part of the meme language.
What Do You Meme?
It’s an interesting time to be alive as we watch our culture grow in technology and communication. It can be quite fun being able to participate in this hi tech revolution. As we get our hands on the newest smartphones and customize them to our tastes; we can do the same with memes; and share them through our new savvy toys.
Chances are you’ve embraced the meme culture and its language usage. This symbiotic relationship isn’t exclusive to Facebook. Even if you’re not on Facebook, most likely you’ve received a text from a friend or came across a post on Instagram or other media site in meme form. Memes aren’t going anywhere. They live among us.
How often do you find yourself sharing or making a meme? They are not just reserved for artists, humorists, intellectuals, and influencers to create. We all have those qualities ingrained in us. So go ahead, make up and share your own meme. Just do me a favor, and leave me out of it.
THANKS FOR READING! HOPE YOU LEARNED SOMETHING INTERESTING. ANY QUESTIONS OR FEEDBACK CAN BE LEFT IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW.
– Mark G