An internet meme is something transferred from individual to individual within a culture – usually containing a humorous element – that can have an influence on society and that culture.
While a meme is humorous, that humor reveals underlying cultural concerns about society. See this tweet from @GeneticJen from 2017:
I see hundreds of great comics, images, memes etc about climate change every year and still nothing has surpassed this. It's perfect pic.twitter.com/iRn1Fat0Hr
— Jennifer Harrison (@GeneticJen) September 9, 2017
This meme is supposed to be funny while also addressing the concern of climate change and the state of the planet. The joke is that even if climate change isn’t real, then what is the harm in making the world a healthier and better place? Most people would laugh at this, retweet or like, and move on. The importance of this tweet, however, is that it addresses the cultural concern of the world deteriorating and the fact that some people are still in disbelief that it is happening.
Another example of the importance of the underlying cultural beliefs in memes is this tweet by @msunwrites:
Yesterday, I finally achieved what every single college student in America has dreamed of, yet can only hope will happen to them.
I got run over by a bus on campus. pic.twitter.com/sFrh20bNTU
— miranda (@msunwrites) August 28, 2019
The humor in this is the famous joke that most college students say as they cross the street: “I hope the bus hits me so I can go here for free.” While this is a joke, it reveals an underlying worry of most college students about the struggle of paying for college tuition. The price of tuition for colleges rises every year and makes it harder for most students to find a way to pay without at least having one job while they are attending school. Some might even have to decide between getting a well-paying job in the summers or an internship to help for their future careers.