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Memetics for Retards

November 22, 2007

I’ve seen a lot of misuse and abuse of the term Meme on the internet, and, like other much abused internet buzzwords, it isn’t helped that the people misusing it are the loqutious types who tag every person the know contact info for on every chain quiz they mislabel as a “meme” or every poorly filmed video that they call “viral” or, or, or…


Regardless. A meme is not a chain letter or a quiz of any sort. Really. A meme is a self-transmitting contagious idea, a concept that is passed voluntarily from person to person because it’s own nature makes people want to transmit it.  Or, equally, it’s nature is condusive to being transimitted without conscious desire or intent to do so. This is a key facet, this desire/need to transmit. Many of the mislabled chain letters could easily be argued as memetic given that they have instructions to pass on the particular quiz. However, the concept of a self-transmitting chain letter is a meme, any particular one is not. The item is not a meme, the concept behind it is.

With the rise of the internet, there are now many images that are memetic, some of which count as memes in their own right, some of which are merely facets of a bigger meme. Cat macros, as a whole, are a meme, while most particular ones are not. (Exemptions being Longcat and Ceiling Cat, among a few notable others.)

Am I making any sense here? It is an idea that universalizes and is transmitted through human interest and is recognisable by people subject to it. When I say “Cat Macro” or (God forbid) “lolcat,” pretty much everyone who has ever been on the internet brings one to mind. They have likely sent a particularly good one to someone else, furthering the meme. However, most of them will picture different ones. Those single iterations are, thusly, not memetic as “Cat Macro” though they might be mildly in their own right – above examples being some like this. The same goes for most image macros and typed jokes out there – the core concept is unversalised, the single iteration not at all.

Also, to anyone discussing internet memes IRL, don’t. Unless the conversation got there on it’s own and this is a necessary progression, discussing “this funny picture I saw on the internet” makes you look like a loser. And if you must, at least pronounce it right. It’s “meem.” Not “meemee” or “mem” or any other bastardization.

—Note, this appears to have been copypasta’d at least once; unless they automatically update, they missed a few corrections & clarifications.


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