Anyone who’s merely glanced at Facebook over the past week will have noticed the sudden explosion of college “meme pages”. Users can upload pictures with funny captions and wait with bated breath as the likes start rolling in. But where did this all come from exactly? And what the hell is a meme?!
A meme is simply a concept that gains traction on the Internet. Many memes begin on message boards such as 4chan (I wouldn’t advise anyone who is easily offended to visit 4chan though.) The creation of memes started to pick up speed on the Internet around 1999-2000, when classic memes like Peanut Butter Jelly Time, All Your Base Are Belong To Us and LOLcats were born. Over the past decade the concept of the meme really took hold, and right now there are squillions of memes being created almost every day.
So where does one begin to even scratch the surface of Internet phenomena?
I think we should start with pronunciation. I have heard a whole range of variations on the pronunciation of “meme”: “memm”, “me-me”, “meh-meh”… I’d like to think I coined “memm” myself, before being gently directed towards the correct pronunciation – “meem”, as in “seam”. Meeeeem. Got it? Good!
Next, I’m going to give a brief rundown of the most popular memes on the Internet right now. I had a terrible time trying to compile this list but eventually, after much deliberation I decided on these. They turn up all the time, and are a sort of “starter kit” for beginner meme-lovers.
This is a series of faces used to describe extreme emotions or reactions to certain events. The title of the series is derived from the first Rageface, “Rage Guy” or “FUUUUUUUU”, who is (obviously) used to express anger or frustration. Then we have “Forever Alone Guy”, used to express – you guessed it - loneliness. Rage Comics use these Rage Faces to create a story, often with four panels, like this:
Remember when you used to watch Pimp My Ride and Xzibit would show them the remodelled car and say: “Yo dawg, I heard you like [fishing/movies/mudkipz] so I put a [fishing rod/cinema] in your car so you can [fish/watch movies] while you drive!”? In every episode? This became a meme in 2007 when members of 4chan (who else) created this gem:
Basically, the format is “Yo dawg, I herd you like X, so I put an X in your X so you can X while you X”. This can be interchanged in any number of ways. For example, here’s an Inception-themed Yo Dawg:
Xzibit is apparently not a fan of this meme. Sucks to be him, I guess.
Advice Dog/Courage Wolf/Socially Awkward Penguin
These three memes all adopt the same format – an animal head, offering advice, superimposed over a colour wheel. Advice Dog gives nonsensical or potentially terrible advice, such as:
Courage Wolf wants to help you succeed with some extreme yet inspiring advice:
And Socially Awkward Penguin points out how very socially inept we are.
X ALL the Y!
X ALL the Y! was originally featured on Hyperbole And A Half, a webcomic by Allie Brosh. In the comic, Allie uses this image to describe how she would have spurts of doing all her household chores, then fall back to browsing the Internet all day long (sounds familiar…):
This picture became the basis for the meme, and can be exploited in numerous ways, including this:
These are just some of the THOUSANDS of memes out there. My particular favourites change all the time, but at the moment I’m loving “Nope! Chuck Testa” and “Women Laughing Alone With Salad”. For more information and to discover more memes, see this timeline covering the growth of Internet memes. If you find you can’t get enough…here’s my not-so-secret secret. But beware! It’s extremely easy to become completely addicted to memes. So don’t come cryin’ to me:” Hey Valerie, Y U NO give me fair warning?”, ’cause I totally did.