If you’re familiar with social media, then you’ve probably seen images featuring an woman exasperated as her boyfriend eyes another woman, probably with varying text accompanying them too. Chances are you’re seeing an example of one of the most influential pieces of social media: memes.
We’ve seen them everywhere, but how are they defined? They come in images, gifs, and videos and convey the creator’s opinions. They share a wide spectrum of tones, from being humorous to sarcastic, with the power to connect with users of Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms. Jokes and mischief aside, internet memes have become a powerful tool impacting social media and the real world.
Memes are known to expose problems in famous figures and organizations and shift the general population’s view of them. Such an infamous instance occurred of United Airline’s violent treatment of a passenger, and the infamous video recorded brought a storm of media attention. Not long after thousands of memes erupted, United Airlines suffered a $1 billion loss from the outrage, according to CNN’s Ivana Kottasova. Similarly, memes are also responsible for political propaganda, often by ridiculing politicians or their policies. The 2016 election demonstrates the agitations caused by the slogans and portrayals used, affecting publicity of Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, and so on.
Outside of politics, memes have been affecting mass media and popular culture for years. You might remember some of the earlier memes with large block letters captioning a single image. Nowadays memes have become more complex, especially by being able to communicate emotions and thoughts more effectively. In addition, memes encourage participation and creativity, one of the reasons so many variations of a meme exists. This behavior builds a sense of community as it’s based off of pop culture, entertainment, and scenarios; either way, they’re shared rapidly and can go viral, affecting mass media. As a meme becomes popular, so does its voice as it reaches vast audiences. That’s how many reach an agreement on the scarcity of sleep and immediately understand each other’s emotions with a single phrase.
As widespread as they memes are, they have proven themselves to be extremely influential in our communication and culture, both positively and negatively. Their rein on the internet won’t end anytime soon, whether they come as frogs or stock photos.