A meme is an idea with spreading power symbolizing an element of culture usually expressed through text and graphics. Gleick states, “memes are complex units, distinct and memorable–-units with staying power (Gleick, 2011).” Memes combine current culture with humor packaged in a visual.
While memes utilize humor, they should be taken seriously. Memes can be seen as a reflection of current society and leave a lasting impression. Roger Sperry says “[i]deas cause ideas and help evolve new ideas (Gleick, 2011).” In this sense, memes are embedding ideas in the mind of the public and helping to evoke new ones.
In this example, an early meme is used to discuss the current political climate. This particular meme is used to represent unfortunate situations that are out of one’s control. World War III may be no joke, but the Twittersphere can relate to Trump’s out of context and questionable tweets.
— Mike Larsen for Congress (@MikeLarsenOH) January 8, 2020
In another example, a meme is used to create a discussion about climate change. It also integrates popular culture use of “boomer” to direct its audience at Millenials or Gen-Z. While the meme discusses a serious issue and the lack of consistent opinions on the topic, it also brings in humor to capture the audience.
I found climate change boomer memes and I'm wheezing pic.twitter.com/v72Sbc82lN
— Dave Eternal (@DaveOshry) January 25, 2020
In each of these examples, a serious topic is used as a meme in order to create awareness and lasting impressions on the public. Memes are a current way of discussing important topics and fostering community with humor.