PR's Blog

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).


January 21, 2010

What is a meme?

Filed under: Memes — Tags: , , — perryrobbin @ 1:13 am

Memes are ubiquitous and uniquely hard to describe. Richard Dawkins, the biological theorist who wrote the influential The Selfish Gene on genetics, evolution and other topics far outside my scope of understanding, originally defined the term. He called it the cultural version of a gene, an explanation of how information spreads throughout a society.

This concise definition, from a Web site that hosts and maintains visibly objectionable content as well as a large catalogue of underground Internet memes, is simply, “a packet of cultural information.”  A key part of a meme is that it replicates, similar in a way to how genes replicate through the reproduction of living organisms. Living organisms, mostly humans, also reproduce memes.

A key difference: genes are reproduced sexually; memes are reproduced through thought and expression. A key similarity: memes, like genes, can change, mutate, as they are replicated, creating variations on a theme and sometimes entirely new memes. Additionally, memes, like genes, require more than one organism to spread.

Pants on the Ground” is an example of a recent, widespread and almost mainstream meme. A meme both you and your parents a are probably aware of. It seems like Hot 93.7 plays a remix of it every day.

All Your Base are Belong to Us” is an old and much more underground meme, not referenced often anymore. But, If I said “somebody set up us the bomb” to some of my friends, there would be a look of understanding on their faces. I would probably get a response along the lines of “main screen turn on” or “for great justice, move every zig.”

Social media spreads, replicates and changes memes faster than at any point in history.

If it was 1995 and you didn’t see “Pants on the Ground” on “American Idol” on Fox, on Tuesday, at 8:00 p.m. (and if “American Idol” was on 15 years ago) you likely wouldn’t see it, unless it got popular enough to bear repeating on late-night shows or maybe the nightly news.

Now? Twitter has thousands upon thousands of tweets about it, 22 more in the minute it took me to type this sentence and go back to copy the link. You have to try to not see the video, not try to see it.

Social media is a powerful tool when it comes to inclusion, to sharing information.

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