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What Makes a Successful Meme?

What makes a successful meme? A successful meme can be viewed as an information cascade. Firstly, each person that shares a meme makes a decision to share the meme based the relatability of the meme. A meme is more relatable the more people have already seen it and relate to it. In the video essay, “How Memes Capture Our Attention – Distracted Boyfriend”, Thomas Flight describes how a meme is created, spread, and reaches public notoriety through examination of the Distracted Boyfriend meme that became popular earlier this fall. He says that a good meme succeeds because it is immediately recognizable, it is an archetypical image that is also easily relatable. In other words, “[…] it taps into the past experiences of the collective and as it spreads becomes a part of the collective symbolism for those experiences.” (Flight 3:25). When a meme has already become the archetype for an idea or theme or part of the lexicon, many people have already shared it and it is immediately recognizable and more relevant.

Whether or not a meme is shared within a community is oftentimes a signal of common understanding of themes or ideas. Therefore, through observation of the choices of others who have shared the meme earlier, people may make the decision to share without directly knowing if the people they share it to can relate to the meme and will react positively. Even without any private information about a meme such as knowing where a meme comes from or even what it means, people may choose to share memes based on information they can infer from the choices of those who have shared the meme in the past. Like Thomas Flight explains in his video, a successful meme is one that is relatable. Eventually, it could become widespread and influential enough to start an information cascade.



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November 2017