Getting to Know “The Meme”

If you use social media, you’ve most likely heard of or come across the four-letter word that has taken the internet by storm: the meme. While the internet is a tremendously advanced place of business, collaboration, knowledge and global connectivity, it also has a side that provides comic relief, often in the form of internet memes.

To truly understand what a meme is, it is important to acknowledge and analyze the proper definition. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a meme is “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media.” A common question, though: are memes jokes, or can they also be used in a serious manner?

Though I use social media daily, I would by no means consider myself a meme connoisseur; however, to me, so long as a post contains a joke, a relatable message or seeks to convey a widespread societal belief or idea, it can be classified as a meme.

This is the more conventional style of meme: lighthearted, funny and relatable – I mean, who didn’t go through the terrifying experience of making your first doctors appointment alone? However, Merriam-Webster Dictionary also defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture,” demonstrating that memes can also spread awareness for societal issues (as seen below).

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What workers and consumers *actually* need from multi-million pound companies: 💷 living wages 👨🏻‍🔧 trade union recognition 🕘 flexible working 🚫safety from harassment and discrimination at work 🤰🏽progressive parental leave policies 🤱🏼support towards childcare costs 👩🏻‍🍳👨🏿‍🍳 paying everyone the same salary for doing the same work 🌿🦍🐠 manufacturing products ethically and in a way that doesn't negatively impact on the planet and the rights of workers and indigenous people across the world ‼️PAYING YOUR DAMN TAXES . . . . . . . . #inequalitymemes #socialjusticememes #taxjustice #wokecapitalism #pinkpound #recognisetradeunions #parentalleave #payyourtaxes #taxevasion #taxavoidance #peoplebeforeprofit #planetbeforeprofit #endexploitation #reallivingwage #flexibleworking #equalpay50 #equalpaynow #worldmentalhealthday #mentalhealthawarenessday #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmonth

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These more serious memes are used as public declarations of political beliefs, cultural identity, opposing viewpoints, or even social injustice.

At the end of the day, memes are snippets of everyday culture. They are a way for internet users to connect and share laughs, ideas, beliefs and experiences. As long as culture keeps providing content, memes will continue circulating in any and all forms.

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