Meme (n.) - From Santa Claus to TrollFace.jpg
A piece of culture that is transmitted from mind to mind like a virus, and repeated by more people as it grows.
Sometimes used by normies to refer to a picture with text over it.
History & Etymology
A greek word whose root mimeisthai meant to imitate, and spawned words like mime, mimic, memento, and mimeograph.
It was that word mimeme that Richard Dawkins chose to use when creating a new word to describe a piece of culture that replicated like genes.
Here it is in his own words:
We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'. [Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene," 1976]
What the idea of a meme is meant to describe is how some behaviors that do not benefit a biological life form, but actually harms it, continue to be practiced. These activities could be as drastic as martyrdom, or as innocuous as swapping the tooth placed under a child's pillow for money. These are cultural ideas and behaviors that have withstood the test of time. They are memes.
What people generally associate with the word meme is what’s called an image Macro. Some people might be pedantic about the difference, but these image macros still fit the definition of meme. I believe they still deserve to have the moniker of meme, because even on their relatively small scale they are traveling, replicating, dieing and evolving overtime.
That shouldn’t diminish the power behind the idea of memes. It’s a brilliant concept that explains many things and provides an avenue for research into the future.
Prescription & Commentary
It’s my opinion that the concept of memes is one of the most important ever developed to describe how culture works. How we communicate complex ideas quickly, and how ideas grow and survive.
Meme’s are much older than than photos with text on them. Santa Claus is a meme. He’s a piece of culture that has spread from person to person changing and growing like genes in a living creature. The traditions associated with Santa change making his meme strong and more powerful. It’s adapted to survive.
And when I say the Santa Claus meme is powerful I mean it in a very real way. This meme has the power to destroy economies. If people didn’t take action to make this meme real, it would collapse the biggest shopping season of the year. Santa may not be a real physical entity but he certainly exerts a force over people causing them to behave as if he exists and do his bidding placing gifts in socks and under trees. That is what a powerful meme looks like.
Memes are also used for speedy communication of complex ideas. When you see this image (Butterfly pidgeon Meme) you know immediately that it’s describing a confusion about what something really is. Or this (two buttons) a type of cognitive dissonance. or this (looking at the girl) when you already have something good and your looking at something else.
All of these express much more than these simple statements and can be applied in many situations. When these memes spread it makes complex communications easier.
When someone invokes the meme that “The left can’t meme” this is the type of meme they are talking about and yes these memes of communication seems to evade the abilities of your average leftist meme farmer. Usually relying too heavily on large blocks of text, and not enough on the inbuilt meaning of the image.
Now the first type of meme I talked about, the Santa Claus level meme, is something the left excels at. Socialism is a meme, Social Justice is a meme, Feminism is a meme, and they are all powerful memes. They all cause the people infected with these memes to act in ways that reinforce them. Just like putting presents under a tree, socialism causes people to vote in certain ways, or expect the government to fill certain roles it shouldn’t.
The large Santa Claus type memes on the right are smaller, or are so big that they seem to some they encompass some of the leftist memes. Freedom upon first look doesn’t necessarily rule out Socialism, at least what most of its followers believe Socialism is. And the idea of a small government is just that, small. People don’t want to hear about what the government shouldn’t be able to do for them, they want to know what it can do for them or what they can do for it. This is part of the reason the right has an uphill battle on its hands for the hearts and minds of people.