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An Introspective Look at Memes

An Introspective Look at Memes

For those of you who have never been on the internet, a meme is a wide spreading picture/video/concept/joke that is characterized by its rapid rise in popularity and infiltration into popular culture. It’s actually quite amazing how fast certain web content can spread, and while researchers have looked into the science behind how a meme is made, there is no clear explanation to what will fail and what will become an overnight sensation. The life and existence of a meme is simple enough to understand. It starts off at one node of a network and spreads to all the nodes connected to it. To stay relevant and popular though, the new nodes that receive the information have to make the conscious decision to spread it to any other node with whom they have a relationship. In this way, the existence of a meme is purely driven by the individuals who experience it and the size and strength of their networks.

First and foremost, memes are made possible by the internet. For something to be able to spread with such speed and range, the medium in which the information travels has to reflect that. There is nothing on this Earth more vast or connected as the internet and with social networking sites like facebook and twitter, the strength of the relationship is rendered useless and the meme is left free to bounce around a network like a beach ball at a Nickelback concert. What I mean by this is (although I guess I’m not familiar with how facebook picks what it puts on your profile’s newsfeed and whether or not it has something to do with whom facebook thinks you are better friends with,) all a person has to do is post a link of something as his or her status and it will (presumably) pop up randomly on the newsfeed of someone else within the network. If the person likes what he or she saw then if the status gets reposted or retweeted and the process starts again. With the speed of the internet, this process can literally happen overnight.

While this type of information exchange seems frivolous and pointless to a certain degree, its nature reflects that of all information networks. While the dramatic gopher and The Insane Clown Posse’s poetic music video for “Miracles” are undoubtedly hilarious and worth every second they waste of our lives, this vast network that almost everyone with a computer and an internet connection are a part of is closer knit than one would think making the idea of six degrees of separation seem more plausible. When the information being spread is something important or of some relevance such as a breaking news story, the speed at which people find out can be as quick as a few minutes and with that this giant network we are all a part of is validated.


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