Internet Memes: Why They Go Viral?

Posted on May 24, 2012 in Specials

By Carrie Williams:

Memes are everywhere. They are phrases we use and in turn imitate if we like them. This action of imbibing and spreading is a part of human nature. As children, we imitate adults and pass on the behavior to our friends. The viral effect of spreading memes popularizes the source of information, though it may have unknown origins. Memes are just spontaneous.

Memes come from culture and represent a cultural behavior. Often, we learn to speak in school, but our most commonly used phrases come from home, the place we spend the most time in. Our behavior is a reflection of our philosophy, religion, education and culture. Popular culture is a reflection of all of these things and a jumble of memes thrown in.

So how did Internet memes come into existence? It could be because of how much time is spent on the computer. In the modern world, information is literally at our fingertips. Google spouts out information about whichever topic we choose. Youtube shows us the songs, movies, and comedy we like. When we watch them, we give positive feedback to a culture that is then fueled by our viewing behavior. Advertisements get placed on that particular website so that people will focus their attention to this other company, though that is not originally what we chose to view.

Interestingly, what we like often first comes from hearing from another person. Word of mouth spreads information so effectively that it gives meaning to the words and phrases that we use most commonly. Advertisements pop up in our face and we are bombarded with information that we pass on to other people in order to make sense of it all. When we make a joke with our friends, we can tell it to more friends and it becomes a story that entertains.

Internet memes have stemmed from shortened abbreviations of phrases. When we want to shorten a phrase to lol, j/k for just kidding, or brb for be right back. It’s a catchy way to communicate more effectively. The reason these shorted phrases work so well online is because they take less time to type. It is actually fascinating that we have developed these methods of communication for better efficiency.

Essentially, we reflect the place we come from. Neil Gaiman, a novelist, says we owe it to one another to tell stories. I think that though memes are not necessarily stories that we tell, but are a reflection of the way we communicate. Even seemingly nonsensical text and misspellings like “that’s hawt,” or “hay you” hold meaning as long as the recipient of the message has heard them before.

Most people on the internet today know what “LOL cats” are or can share humor about the lyrics of Justin Bieber because we all watch the same videos. We almost virally spread links to one another. We are like personal advertisers, in that we can communicate with our friends and learn through our friends’ friends about what is new and interesting, even if it’s not clear what the source of a particular meme is.

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