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Influence of memes

How have memes come to influence culture and everyday life? “The ting goes skrrrahh, pap, pap, ka-ka-ka / Skidiki-pap-pap, and a pu-pu-pudrrrr-boom / Skya, du-du-ku-ku-dun-dun / Poom, poom” (Dapaah, 2017), these iconic words were professed in the hit single “Man’s not Hot” (figure 1) performed by comedian Michael Dapaah in character as Big Shaq. The songs success allowed it to peak at #3 on the U.K singles’ charts and went on to gain Platinum Certification in 3 countries plus another 9 Gold Certifications in the same number of countries. Since its release, the song has gone on to earn over 300 Million views on Youtube alone. It’s fair to say that probably the song didn’t achieve these numbers due to Dapaah’s musical prowess but due to the fact of how the internet itself received the song and made it theirs which eventually led to it becoming a viral meme (figure 2). Now the questions start to surface, I’ve just introduced the term internet meme. What is an internet meme? Well in a logical order before defining what an internet meme is, I’ll define what a meme is first. The term meme was initially popularized by a biologist in 1976 called Richard Dawkins (figure 3), he coined it by taking inspiration from the Greek word “mimeme”, which means “the imitated thing” and shortening it so it sounds like “gene”. In his book The Selfish Gene he presents the following reasoning for this: “The gene, the DNA molecule, happens to be the replicating entity that prevails on our own planet. (…) I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. (…) We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word meme. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.” (Dawkins, 2006)”. In layman’s terms memes are ways or things that culture and human behavior not only share, but evolve from. We use memes without knowing they’re essentially memes in their core, things such as shaking hands when meeting someone is a meme that’s been shared and passed down within our culture for years, singing Happy Birthday can be considered a meme just like other things such as saying “How you doin’?” like Joey used to say in Friends, or maybe just inside jokes that people have between themselves, all these things have a cultural value and are shared between people. This is what makes memes “Legen-WAIT FOR IT…dary”. Naturally due to technological advancements, our lives have become more and more internet centred. Ofcom which is the UK’s communications regulator said that in 2018 people in England spent an average of 24 hours a week online (see attachment 1), and logically us as being human beings replicate on the internet the same things we do in real life, thus the meme opens way to the internet meme. Technopedia, which is a website that defines itself as “your go-to tech source for professional IT insight and inspiration” defines an internet meme as being: “an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media that gains popularity and spreads rapidly via the Internet. An Internet meme is often helped along by social networking sites and blogs that post and repost popular memes and, in doing so, reinforce the popularity of the memes. These are also known as Internet trends or Internet phenomenon.” (, 2019) we see here that the definition hasn’t changed much from the original, apart from the obvious difference in platform. Dawkins himself also commented on this new phenom and said in an interview to Wired that: “an internet meme is a hijacking of the original idea and that instead of mutating by random change and spreading by a form of Darwinian selection, they are altered deliberately by human creativity. Unlike with genes there is no attempt at accuracy of copying; internet memes are deliberately altered”. Due to the accessibility and hands on approach people have on the internet, anyone can create a meme and its even easier to have it spread due to social media. So now let’s take this back to the beginning where I was talking about “Man’s not Hot” and Michael Dapaah, now that we know what a meme is and more importantly what an internet meme is, we can see how the remixing of culture in the internet can lead to ones success. But Dapaah wasn’t the first artist to benefit from this phenom, in 2007 Rick Astley’s career catapulted back into relevance due to his song “Never Gonna Give You Up” being used as an internet meme dubbed “Rickrolling”, the internet meme consisted of a prank where internet users are tricked into seeing Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” by clicking on links that claim to be something else. Astley’s meme status gained him a following that eventually led him to winning Best Act Ever at MTV’s Europe Music Awards 2008 (see attachment 2). This is a proof of how powerful internet memes are and of how influential they can be in our society, which leads in to the main focus of my dissertation: How have internet memes come to influence culture around us and everyday life, especially on the offline spectrum. We can see that from what was stated previously that internet memes played a role in Michael Dapaah’s success and played a role in Rick Astley winning an important award, but how do they effect the normal person like me and you? From a personal perspective internet memes helped me settle in England when I came here to live from Portugal, they reduced the homesickness as they were a way of communicating with my friends that were still there. Eventually sending internet memes wasn’t enough so we started creating our owns typically by doing some very poor montages (see attachment 3), note that at this time I had no basics at Photoshop this was my first experience, and my friends were on the same boat as me, this resulted in very bad edits that we and people that followed us on social media found funny. It was also at this time that I decided that if I wanted to pursue higher education that I would like to do it through a creative path, so I think it’s fair to say that personally, internet memes played a part in me deciding to follow a Graphic Design route. However this wasn’t my first experience with memes, like many I too followed internet trends such as mimicking the Gangnam Style dance and also the infamous Harlem Shake (Figure 4), 2013 was a dark year. 2013 was also the year that cryptocurrency started to get trendy before it’s boom in 2017, coders from everywhere started to develop their own “coins”, one in particular called Dogecoin was named after a meme called Doge, which was an image of a charismatic dog with overlaid poorly written fictional interior monologues in comic sans (figure 5). Dogecoin (figure 6) was initially set to be a joke but ended up gaining traction and sparking transactions from the internet meme community back in the day, with articles saying that it could rival with Bitcoin (see attachment 4). Since then, it’s cult status and fact that people recognize Dogecoin from the meme format haven’t led to it being the main cryptocurrency around, but it has led to it being sitting comfortably in the crypto-exchange market at #23 with a market cap of more than 200 million dollars. Forwarding to the following year, 2014 was pretty heavy with a plethora of globally viral memes to choose from, one of which showed us that internet memes didn’t have a sole purpose to entertain people, they also could have a focus towards social causes, this was the Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral across the whole world. The Ice Bucket Challenge also known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a dare game where participants had to pour a bucket of ice over their heads and then nominate 3 people to participate in the challenge, if their nominees failed to post their own participation in the challenge within 24 hours, then they would have to donate to charities focused on the disease. Online, the Challenge was a success that led to more than 17 million videos related which led to a total of more than 10 billion views (see attachment 5), it too was a success “offline mostly due to the donations that came from it. The main charity that received donations was the American ALS Association, they eve released an official statement comparing the total values of donations which even led them to release an official statement comparing donations from the same time period between the previous year and the year of the Ice Bucket Challenge (see attachment 6), the statement said the following: “As of August 29, the Association has received $100.9 million in donations compared to $2.8 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 29).” (The ALS Association, 2014). Still in 2014 we saw how the internet changed the life of 2 very distinct young men due to their good looks, I’m talking about “Sexy Mugshot Guy” and “Alex from Target”. “Sexy Mugshot Guy”, also known as Jeremy Meeks, because it’s his real name, went viral on the internet after having his photograph published on Facebook upon being arrested. Not only did he receive considerate fame and a number of meme edits over his mugshot (figure 7), he also received an unconditional modelling job offer that he could choose to start after having completed his sentence. He accepted the offer and has since walked at the New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week, apart from this he is also in a relationship and has a child with Chloe Green, daughter of British billionaire Philip Green, owner of establishments like Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Burton. People were fascinated by the finding of Meeks through his criminal activities so eventually accounts on social media were created specifically for finding and posting good looking convicts. The twitter account @mugshawtys (figure 8) is an example of such thing, it boasts over 87 thousand followers and since then has been responsible for the introduction of people that went to jail to a internet fame. Meeks was just the beginning, after him at least two more people have signed modelling contracts and another got a make-up artist contract. As we can see crime still doesn’t pay, but it’s easier when you’re good looking. Bringing back focus to what was being discussed, another person that achieved internet meme status due to his good looks was “Alex from Target” (figure 9), a teenager who while at work, (at Target), got his picture taken and posted online. The picture exploded (see attachment 7.1) gaining Alex 100 thousand Twitter followers in one day and being approached by agents throughout different areas such as advertising, movies, television shows, endorsements etc However not everything was easy for Alex as he was a constant target for harassers such as cyberbullies who eventually also sending him online death threats (see attachment 7.2) as he told the NYTimes back in 2014. Alex however did materialise some of the things that he was offered but it’s fair to say that his fame temporary. Who did “take advantage“ from Alex’s fame was Targets’ social media marketing team who gained much, much more traction with the tweet about Alex than other tweets. Below there’s an example of a tweet from the day before (figure 11) and a tweet from the day after (figure 12), the differences are visible. But not all social media campaigns involving memes go well, some can horribly backfire. One good example of this is the (still 2014), campaign set out by Bill Cosbys’ team where internet users could create memes using a Bill Cosby Generator from his website (see attachment 8), they were expecting something tame and in liner with characters plated by the actor (figure 13), but the internet doesn’t forget and created memes based on the rape allegations against the actor (figure 14). The timing was horrible, Cosby was already under-fire and this campaign should of never happened, especially on a place as volatile as the internet. A 2018 article written by Aidan Cole for Forbes sets up some rules to help aid people that want to market through memes. They are 3, and I quote: “Be a native. Make sure a digital native is writing and sharing memes from your brand so the lingo is on point. If you don’t, the audience will immediately pick up that you’re trying hard to be cool, and it will hurt your brand. Be relatable. It’s guaranteed that only a sliver of the population will understand your meme. Don’t try to create a meme that appeals to everyone. Know your target audience and cater to their interests instead. Watch your timing. Some memes have been around for years, while others are fleeting. If you use an existing meme, make sure it’s still trendy. If you create your own, make sure the cultural climate is right. Otherwise, you’ll come off as tone deaf and out of touch.” (Cole, 2018) I asked Francisco Baptista, a Social Media and Digital Marketer what he thought about memes and how companies where using them as a marketing tool, he said: “I love memes and I think they’re going to be huge. I’ve worked for a company whose target audience was younger and when we did memes the responses were amazing. There are several people that work in digital that attribute the success of the Netflix movie Bird Box due to the memes that were made!” Image Bibliography Figure 1: Man’s Not Hot. (2017). [image] Available at: [Accessed 29 Jan. 2019]. Figure 2: NASA wants to send Big Shaq to the Sun. (2017). [image] Available at: [Accessed 29 Jan. 2019]. Figure 3: Richard Dawkins meme. (2019). [image] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]. Figure 4: FFpT Clan (2013). The Moon Harlem shake. Available at: [Accessed 30 Jan. 2019]. Figure 5: Doge. (2015). [image] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]. Figure 6: Dogecoin. (2015). [image] Available at:×0:539×345/1200×800/filters:focal(21×0:539×345)/ [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]. Figure 7: Sexy Mugshot Guy . (2014). [image] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019]. Figure 8: mine Figure 9: Figure 10: Bibliography

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