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February 16, 2010

A Little Meme

Filed under: Memes, Mutated, New — Tags: , , , — perryrobbin @ 3:17 pm

Common experiences are a good starting point for creating a meme. Among the top trends on twitter today is #OHjustlikeme (along with #pancakeday, which seems delicious if not particularly suited to this post). The twitter page for OhJustLikeMe encourages twitter users to “tweet what makes us realize that we’re not the only one who does that.”

The two most-repeated tweets when I search #OHjustlikeme are “RT if you hate it when you eat alot and only your belly that gets bigger,” and “I wish loosing weight is as easy as gaining weight.” These two phrases have been repeated by thousands of retweets and people copying, pasting and reposting. Since memes often function like a mental, cultural cut and paste, it seems appropriate to discuss these reused tweets.

I especially like the tweet about losing weight. It has “losing” misspelled, as in making your weight looser instead of tighter, and it uses the wrong verb (is instead of were). Similarly, the “belly” tweet has a disconnect between the first and second part of the statement, either using an extraneous “that” or missing an “it’s” before the word only. Surely, hopefully, some people who are retweeting have at least noticed the errors. But often it is the quirks of memes that make them memorable, or makes them a meme in the first place.

Additionally, losing weight is a common struggle for people who are affluent enough to have a computer and internet access. This helps spread the meme, in this case just a 10-word tweet, because it is about something that people care about and can empathize with.

Two internet memes that draw strongly on quirky language are “how do I shot web,” based off of a poorly-spelled question on a video game FAQ and “Nod Flenders,” a poorly-drawn Ned Flanders (from the Simpsons) that has inspired a number of crudely-rendered portraits of other characters, both cartoon and real, and this illuminating quote from 4chan’s /b/ board: “After looking at that picture of Ned Flanders, it doesn’t even seem right anymore. All I know is Nod Flenders. Matt Groening should re-do all however many episodes of the Simpsons and rename it the Sompsurns.”

These  two tweets, and these two memes, show that perfect use of language is not a prerequisite for spreading memes. To an extent, flaws in their words make them more memorable and unique than an average tweet (the “loosing weight” tweet) or even form the entire backbone of the meme (Nod Flenders).


February 4, 2010

Local Memes

Filed under: Memes, Mutated, New — perryrobbin @ 9:26 am

Memes are constantly changing. The content of an established meme will change drastically as it is interpolated and reproduced, old memes will die, or maybe take on a second life, and new memes will emerge. How they change, die or live again depends on individuals and communities, leaders and tribes.

One of the most exciting things about memes is that they are one of the most equal, organic creations of the Internet– there are no corporations or governments that can create memes any better than you and me. Large groups may have more resources to create them, but the enjoyment, replication and mutation, or rejection, of a meme is usually dependent on tapping into the zeitgeist of the audience, not marketing from a business.

Here is a meme that has successfully accessed the community it is targeted toward, but probably won’t get much further:

The Donald Brown Drinking Game (Facebook). Are there classier memes to discuss? Yes. Are memes usually classy? No.

This Facebook event has 1,136 confirmed guests right now, and 1,603 more were invited. Each day in my Facebook feed, I see another one or two or four friends have signed up. A look at the guest list reveals that it has mostly college students on it, many from UConn, and most of them are from schools in Connecticut. This meme, despite all the geography-erasing powers of the internet, will probably remain in Connecticut, so to speak.

Do Colts fans feel the same way about Donald Brown that UConn students, and to a lesser all extent people from CT, do? Probably not. Will Saints fans (except for the Tyler Lorenzen references in the game’s rules), or Buffalo Bills fans, or West Ham United fans or  Nippon-Ham Fighters fans care at all about this drinking game? Almost definitely not.

Donald Brown was a first-round draft pick for the Colts and, except for the beginning of the season, has had a quiet but promising rookie year. For everybody else, he’s a pretty good back-up running back if you know football, a non-entity if you don’t. For Nutmeggers (although Connecticuters is evidently acceptable as well), he is recognizable name. For UConn students, faculty staff and alums who follow the football team, he is probably the best player the program has had in its history.

Take a minute to look past the references to snorting pills, body hair removal and running around naked and compare the rules in the Facebook version to the original, found on the creator’s blog and see the differences (and notice that this is not a new game, at least for a few people). Now look at the comments on the Facebook wall and see the changes to the meme that newcomers have created, and see which new rules and changes made the “official” list– this is all very public evidence of a meme mutating.

I discussed this meme because it’s targeting the people who will care the most about it. For the most part, it’s not overreaching or pushing itself on people who don’t know who Donald Brown is, who don’t care about UConn or don’t watch football. It’s using Facebook, a very powerful tool, to contact college students, a group that loves using Facebook, to tell them about drinking and the best football player to come out of their school (or state) and how to combine them, two things that a majority of them are interested in.

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