A meme, according to the Oxford dictionary, is “an element of culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.” In other words, memes are widely sharable artifacts, often humorous in nature, that travel throughout the internet. There’s little-to-no concern about copyright violations with memes, since the same ones are shared over and over across various platforms, like Twitter, Facebook and Imgur.
But memes aren’t just for laughs. Memes reflect the shared values of internet culture and its multitude of sub-cultures. You can tell a lot about a given internet society based on what kind of material is trending and what memes take off. Timing is key, too, since a meme that isn’t timely enough won’t go viral, per digitaltrends.com.
Here’s a meme that circulated when The New York Times endorsed Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar:
The New York Times pic.twitter.com/HiscR3qFMx
— Fiona Applebum Says Don’t Give Shaun King Money!🍎 (@WrittenByHanna) January 20, 2020
This meme humorously comments on the NYT endorsement in a kind of feminist meme language used by Gen-Zers and some Millenials. It pokes fun at NYT’s double endorsement, putting the announcement in a positive light while the rest of the internet criticized NYT’s inability to choose one candidate. A ton of people were tweeting about the NYT endorsement, so this tweet went viral at that time.
The post below is an example of how brands use memes to sound more “hip” with the times. In this post, Syracuse University hops on the Baby Yoda trend amid the latest Star Wars release:
may the orange be with you 🍊 pic.twitter.com/IkFMmE9ZRl
— Syracuse University (@SyracuseU) December 19, 2019
Not only is the image itself a meme, but the text is, too. Syracuse University uses all lowercase in this tweet, presumably to seem cooler to its younger followers.