by Jennifer Chung
For the most part, I’m a rational person with plenty of reasonable doubt. Outside of the radical realm of space and science, not many things astonish me.
This is more than I can say for what we have come to know as the “meme”.
A meme is a straight up phenomenon, fabricated by the members of the millennial Generation Y, and a notion that never ceases to render me dumbfounded. It’s difficult to explain, but in a nutshell, Wikipedia defines it as “a concept that spreads swiftly via the Internet”. It’s a very broad term that can encompass, well, practically anything that evokes some kind of reaction (usually humorous) amongst the internet community. That’s the magic!
The practice of the world’s youth using the internet as a sole means of entertainment since its birth is rising exponentially, and the astonishing influence is nothing we haven’t seen already in this day and age. In the recreational blogosphere, memes are practically inescapable. Try walking around a school campus for a day without hearing someone cry out “Hide ya wife, hide ya kids, and hide ya husband” (Antoine Dodson) or threaten to “rick roll” you. Paul Vasquez of Double Rainbow fame, a one-time nobody living in Yosemite, CA., has already created commercial and an ad campaign for Microsoft Windows, simply by filming three minutes and thirty seconds of himself tripping out over a pair of rainbows in his front yard. I’m baffled.
Keyboard Cat, reincarnated in T-shirt form, a parody of another popular T-shirt, Three Wolf Moon, which is a meme in itself. A meme of a meme. Can you even handle that? Embarrassingly enough, I own that shirt and love it.
The congregation of internet users, which creates a bizarre type of community, is something that you can’t help but respect. People all over the world gather on the internet like camels at a watering hole, laughing together at the rest of the oblivious world. The most awe-inspiring aspect of this idea is the sheer power they obtain when convened.
Some of you may remember the infamous Jessi Slaughter. For those who don’t, this precocious 11-year old girl had posted numerous videos of herself on YouTube spouting enough obscenities to last you a lifetime.
Clearly, this is something the internet just couldn’t ignore.
Within hours (HOURS!), her videos had gone viral all over the internet, from 4chan (an imageboard website) to Tumblr (a blogging platform) to Twitter (microblogging) and beyond. Users were irritated by her behavior and shared it amongst friends like wildfire. Some became so annoyed that they decided to “troll” her by making her life hell: hacking into all of her accounts, unearthing private information, and even sending pizzas to her house. Did she deserve it? That’s for you to decide.
This type of communal dominance is frightening, but believe it or not, rewarding at times. When a video of an unknown girl throwing newborn puppies into a river was discovered, the internet went haywire and became dedicated to finding the perpetrator. Eventually, she was found. Not by the FBI. Not by the police. Random internet users were able to acquire her identity, her address, and even the name of the exact river in the video. FYI, the puppies were found alive at the river bank!
Even as a member of Generation Y, the idea of internet memes, and how we even distinguish a meme, still amazes me, so I can’t even fathom how confusing they may be to older generations. The disconnect between the two is ample, however, as time progresses, we as constituents of the “internet era” will take over, and the rift will inevitably dwindle.