Internet Memes Might Be More Complex Than We Think

Over the past decade, with the rise of social media, memes have also steadily gained popularity. Lifewire defines a meme as “a virally transmitted photograph that is embellished with text that pokes fun at a cultural symbol or social idea.” But are memes as simple as that? Or do they hold a larger meaning or purpose?


I believe that memes hold the ability to spread (potentially dangerous or offensive) thoughts and opinions at a rapid rate in an innocent manner. This can be seen in the Pepe the Frog meme, which began as a harmless character in a comic but was quickly turned into a viral symbol for extremist anti-semetic and white supremacy groups. At first, Twitter users added offensive language to the meme. As time went on, even a frog emoji could be used to symbolize a person in an extremist group or extremist thoughts and opinions.

Adversely, memes can spread a serious and important message in a lighthearted, playful manner. Recently, following the rise of young climate activist Greta Thunberg, there has been a drastic increase in memes bringing awareness to climate change and the warming ozone layer. Even though no physical action has been taken directly because of the spread of these memes, they have started a conversation about a topic that desperately needs to be addressed.

These examples show that memes can be used in both negative and positive ways—but are more powerful than we might initially think.

One thought on “Internet Memes Might Be More Complex Than We Think

  1. Great job, Clare! I found this post to be very interesting, considering how complex the concept of memes can be. In your post, you said how certain memes, such as the Pepe the Frog meme, can be harmless and funny. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing a funny meme on their feed. However, memes like this, and similar memes, can quickly take a dark turn and morph into something hateful. Something as innocent and fun as the Pepe the Frog meme can used with a hateful caption, or edited to look a certain offensive way, taking the fun out of popular memes.
    On the other hand, there are certainly many other memes that can still be funny, but they may also share a serious, important message with online users as well. In your post, you used the example of the Doge meme. Many people in the online community don’t take well to aggressive messages. In taking a meme such as this and using it to raise awareness of climate change, it allows users to take this issue seriously as it is relayed in an easygoing, humorous way. Though the topic of climate change is not necessarily funny, the way in which this important issue is presented can make the difference as to whether one chooses to engage with solving this problem or not.
    Overall, you did a great job presenting the different ways that memes take shape on the internet, Clare!

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