Among the many names millennials have been dubbed, such as the “Internet Generation,” the “Selfie Generation,” and even the “Harry Potter Generation” by Buzzfeed, we’ve also been nicknamed the “Meme Generation.” And I don’t think there’s any surprise there. But in actuality, memes came to light even before they became a trademark of millennials.
The term “meme” was introduced by Richard Dawkins in 1976 to “explain the way cultural information spreads.” Internet memes have since become a ubiquitous trend, particularly among teens.
While I’m certainly no avid collector of memes like many I know, I still find myself chuckling or, at the least, nodding in agreement at the hilarious memes I find on social media. And I do recognize the vital role that memes play in contemporary life today. Memes have not only changed our communication and our humor but they’ve also changed the way we express our emotions and relate to one-another.
It goes without saying that, even if we’re unaware of it, culture evolves everyday, and with it language changes and new words may be born. It may interest you to know, for example, that the most recent terms officially added to Merriam- Webster’s Dictionary include “binge-watch,” “face-palm,” “ginger,” “photobomb,” “safe space” and “train-wreck.”
I see evidence quite often, both in the real world and virtual world, of how memes have altered our humor and communication. Thanks to memes, new slang has been integrated in our vocabulary, such as “yeet,” “bruh,” “low-key,” “feels,” and “fleek”
And in the middle of the ups and downs of life, there are those moments where you just can’t help but make a meme out of your life. A good example of this is when you’re sitting in your AP Calculus class and your test is returned to you with a giant “F” slapped on the front, and you mutter to yourself, “That moment when you fail a test but you’re not surprised because your whole life is a failure.” Or when you turn to your friend and realize he also failed that same test you might show him this beauty…
Usually anytime you find yourself randomly exclaiming a phrase starting with “that moment when…” you’re likely referencing a meme which just goes to show the immense influence memes have had on our humor and communication.
Memes have also had an impact on how we relate to one-another. Take the legendary hashtag #thestruggleisreal, and you’ve now found a community of users who struggle in the same way you do, in whatever scenario it may be.
The best examples I can think of are the glorious memes that surface on the web every year following AP and SAT testing. In the midst of our collective stress and anxiety, we find solace in retreating to the internet and escaping to the myriad of memes about the questions we had such hard times answering.
We all know the saying “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” In the same way, memes can encapsulate the most complex of emotions with a single image. Thus as we continue to laugh and share memes amongst one-another we’re fostering a sense of unity.
It’s hard to believe something so seemingly small as a meme can have such a tremendous influence. But regardless of how long memes are likely to last, they’ll surely provide a deeper understanding of our generation’s trends, habits, and epic fails for years to come.