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What Makes a Meme a Meme?

What Makes a Meme a Meme?

December 14, 2018

What is a meme? Can we even describe the word in one sentence?

These are common questions adults ask, because they cannot seem to understand youth culture and the humor that makes a meme in general.

I mean, can we really define it? The word “meme” has come to encompass a wide variety of templates and jokes, but we sure know one when we see it.

However, not everything can become a meme. The text, tweet, image, video, or snap has to relate to the audience in some way. And, in the meme creator’s point of view, that is teenagers and young adults. Therefore, a successful meme is often one that appeals to the majority of the stereotypical “teenager” in order to grab their attention, humor a laugh, and ultimately gain a share or a “repost.” It really is an art, crafted through funny edits of TV show characters and sarcastic relatable texts above commonly-seen pictures.

Because of this, memes are worth exploring, and I’m going to tell you how a meme becomes a meme:

Let’s say you upload a picture to the web.

First, it has to be relatable. People have to relate in some way to what you’re posting. Think of an inside joke between you and your friends — it’s funny because only you and them get it, and you take ownership in it. That’s what memes have to relate to. Whatever the meme is, it’s important that the audience understands it and feels like it’s directed towards them, because that’s what people want to see on their feed. Good memes appeal to all groups of people, but actually use inside jokes that only a select few may understand.

Secondly, it needs to have a good visual aspect. In order for memes to be viral, they need to be immediately funny when you first see them, because if not, then the viewer will likely skip over it. The best memes are proven to have an image which resembles absurdity or irony. For example, if a meme is surreal or so out-there that it grabs your eye because of how “ironic” it is, those are often the ones that subvert your expectations and often go viral.

Finally, it has to reject common views. Memes are unique in that they show true expression (or something resembling it) of our generation. Studies show that teenagers are more likely to relate to views that reject authority and “stray away” from the traditional values.

Who knew that all of these factors could play into a post on a website? Our culture has been rapidly shifting over the past few years with the wide reach of social media. As memes become one of the largest mediums of expression on the Internet, it’s important to understand what creates a meme and how they influence upcoming generations.

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