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Technology
July 03, 2014

Yours virally

Text by Nittal Chandarana

Have you seen your social feeds inundated with ‘clever’ quotes, ‘witty’ sayings and pithy twists on real-life situations? You are a part of the meme culture without even knowing it! Find out more….

The Internet has been taken over. A steady stream of viral trends is seeping into every arena of the World Wide Web. Social media thrives on these. Twitter gives them hashtag status. Don’t even get me started on Facebook. It’s the undisputed mecca of memes. It doesn’t take long for a social fad to spread like wildfire. The opposite actually. The Kolaveri Di video was put on the pedestal of being a YouTube sensation after a mere 24 hours of it being uploaded.

Meme (pronounced ‘meem’, to rhyme with ‘gene’) may seem like a relatively new term seeing how a lot of them borrow heavily from fandoms and what we’re currently watching or reading. But this word was coined ages ago by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene, back in 1976. It essentially is anything that is popular, an imitation of something that is finally absorbed into the culture. Nyan cat, Derp/Derpina, the Harlem Shake… any of these ring a bell? The earliest memes were created by Harry Frees. An American photographer and creator of postcards and children’s books, he dressed up animals and photographed them with props, often adding funny captions to go.

Fast forward to now. There’s a meme for every reason; for every season. There are even sites that allow you to make your own memes. There’s one that goes by the name Know Your Memes, lest you mix them up and commit social media suicide. The Keep Calm and Carry On poster was one of the first few things to go viral. The Ministry of Information came up with this during the Second World War to increase strength and morale among the people. These were never distributed but provided fodder for many a meme. A few iconic meme pictures are Socially Awkward Penguin, Condescending Wonka, Batman slap and feeding off stereotypes – High Expectations Asian Father.

Memes borrowing from fandoms have a ready fan base. The story of Harry Potter is kept alive due to the many fan pages and witty fan-created images doing the rounds. Game of Thrones, in fact, has a GoT memes page on Facebook. Sites like Buzzfeed and its Indian counterpart, Scoopwhoop, wholly rely on memes to up their humour quotient. Since the elections always create a major buzz, these sites had pages and pages of hilarious content on our politicians. There were ‘what they said, what they meant’ gags, some drawing a parallel with television show characters and some on the exclusive daftness exuded by a few.

 One of my favourite meme series that went viral was the Cardboard Box Office. A couple, after moving to a new country, had a lot of free time on their hands owing to this drastic change in their life. All it took was a few bored weekends, a whole lot of cardboard boxes and their little baby to set up their own movie scenes coming up with titles like Lord of the Teething Rings, The Dark Knighty-Night and even recreating the famous Oscars selfie.

Many a times, memes are seen as key promotional tools. Films like Snakes on a Plane and Puss in Boots have tried this. McDonald’s tried it by creating a McDstories hashtag on Twitter. Indian merchandise company Chumbak and designer Neil Dantas have built their brand on the clever use of memes. Memejacking, as it is called, is quick becoming a new approach to enhance visibility of products.

Love them, or hate them, there’s no escaping memes. Your gadget screens are going to bombarded with these forever. Y U No jump on this bandwagon? There, we said it.

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