Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in 1976 as a unit of cultural transmission, or cultural genes so to speak. The rise of the Internet has only spread and intensified the popularity of memes. How many of us have spent endless hours on Reddit or other websites scrolling through massive archives of Internet memes? The fact is that now Internet memes have become an important part of our digital culture.
This 2010 New York Times article notes how easily and unexpectedly memes are developed, and the impact they have on society. The best part of memes is the fact that it’s made popular by the masses. Popular memes become so because they are entertaining or applicable to a wide segment of our population, not because some important figure said so. The people have spoken, and what they are saying now is that some guys are just ridiculously photogenic.
Internet memes are really a testament to how our digital culture has sped up the process through which good ideas single themselves out and are then spread. Memes are so popular because: (a) anyone can make or participate in a meme (b) so many people can relate to the issues they address and (c) the popularity of memes is constantly evolving. Digital media has allowed humans to be more social, meaning that our culture evolves quicker and more dynamically. Memes help facilitate this process.