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Meme Culture: The Dark Side of Internet Memes

Memes are funny images with witty text to capture readers attention / Photo by Flickr

 

Social networking sites are fun since they could connect more people and it enables them to communicate with one another. However, as social media progresses and social networking sites are becoming swarmed by a lot of people, they also began to post and create memes that they would share to their friends and have the fun started. Digital trends explained that memes are funny images that are posted all over the internet. These photos and illustrations are mostly made with witty texts that would capture the attention of the reader.

An internet meme, commonly known as just meme, is an activity, concept, catchphrase, or piece of media that spreads, often as mimicry or for humorous purposes, from person to person via the Internet. An Internet meme usually takes the form of an image, GIF or video. They may relate to various existing Internet cultures or subcultures, often created or spread on various websites, or by Usenet boards and other such early-Internet communications facilities. Fads and sensations tend to grow rapidly on the Internet because of the instant communication facilities word-of-mouth transmission.

Every day, millions of people laugh at LOLcats, dog shaming, and music videos without music, while others mock injustice, support marriage equality, poke fun at NSA surveillance, or call out racism.

History of Memes

Early in the 1920s, the biologist Richard Semon used the term “mnemes” in theorizing biologically inheritable memory. Richard Dawkins, in his 1974 book, ‘The Selfish Gene’, took a different tack, shortening the Greek terms “mimetes” (imitator) to coin “meme” as a cultural analog to the biological gene: a “self-replicating unit of information”. Internet memes are a subset of this general meme concept specific to the culture and environment of the Internet. The concept of the Internet meme was first proposed by Mike Godwin in June 1993 issue of Wired.

Genes, Dawkins argued, are subject to the forces of evolution: variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance. On similar principles, certain ideas seem to rise and fall in cultures; the base concepts of art, religion, and politics are memes, as are more fleeting trends, fads, and fashions. While it may seem like memes are just cute pictures and nothing else, they could have negative impacts on people and just life in general. One of the most recent cases is that of Tide Pods. recently, there have been 37 cases of people eating detergent pods, with about half of them being intentional.

‘Such Danger, Much Caution’

Memes are sometimes photos of people, usually taken or posted without competition, with added text about the photo as a caption. It’s easy to make a meme, and even easier to share or be in one but it comes at a personal cost. It’s rare to find someone who wants to be turned into a meme: it could mean being internet famous, but for all the wrong reasons. There are instances that the individuals who are featured in memes could experience mental health problems. One of them is the Star Wars Kid. after the video was released on the internet, Ghyslain Raza, the titular Star Wars Kid, became severely depressed over the countless negative comments the video received. He lost multiple friends and even left the school campus for private tutoring.

Moreover, CNN recently reported that the European Parliament has made a move to ban memes from spreading because they believe that memes could have a huge and negative impact on more people. The European Parliament also believe that memes could be dangerous on the eating habits of people who are fond of them. “A substantial number of individuals on Twitter share health-related Internet memes, with both positive and negative messages,” researchers from Loughborough University said when they wrote a letter to the European Parliament.

The study conducted by Loughborough University also believe that memes are putting more people at risk of obesity. Business Insider says that researchers who wrote a letter titled “MEMEotive - Analysing the Effects of Internet Memes on Young Teenagers’ Health and Health Behaviors” the researchers wrote the letter in order to give warning that memes have the tendency to ridicule serious health problems which includes obesity and sedentary lifestyle and behavior.

Health Is No Joke

Aside from health factors, memes could also be used to distort the truth from people. Political internet memes were used on a large scale for the first time during the 2012 US Presidential Election. Initially used as a form of entertainment, the purpose of these funny images changed during the 2016 election. Memes started to dominate news headlines and were used to influence the political views of social media user.  Memes contain certain manipulative techniques that make them suitable for transferring a distorted view of reality.

At some point scrolling through the Facebook news feeds or the thousands of memes on the popular social media site, people have seen a lot of racist or anti-homosexual meme. While some people might argue that these memes are just for humor and not intended to spread hate, they still have a large impact on how the youths see the world around them. Memes are also believed by some people that butchered the English language. The increase of the memes have horrendous spelling and grammar and disturbingly, there is a lot of youth who are exposed to these images.

 

Memes could have a negative impact on people / Photo by DeviantArt

 

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