MEMEingful past

By on December 4, 2018

Memes and information from

Depending on who you ask, they’re either the crowning achievement of the internet, or the garbage of the web. Whether you love them or hate them, you can’t argue that memes have not become a cultural phenomenon in and of themselves. Read on to find out what they actually are, how they started and which memes kept us from ending it all over the years. – M. Fortin

What do you meme, meme?

 The term ‘meme’ actually isn’t exclusive to those viral captioned tweets or Vines. The word was coined all the way back in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book, “The Selfish Gene.”

“Gene” is one of the most celebrated books on evolution in the last half century, and in it, Dawkins discusses the way cultural information is spread. That’s essentially what he calls a meme– just a piece of cultural information.

That makes an internet meme simply a subset of the general term, and is specifically used to describe a piece of information that is created and spread within the context of the internet.

Internet memes are usually presented as a piece of media– it could be a photo, video, gif, text, Vine, etc– and may be shared alongside an additional phrase or caption.

Due to the nature of social media and its emphasis on instant communication and sharing, memes often rapidly spawn fads and significant cultural sensations, such as the Harlem Shake and Grumpy Cat.

2011: Pepe the Frog: One of the original viral memes, Pepe the Frog came in hundred of variations representing just about every emotion and reaction. In more recent years, Pepe has become something of a hate symbol, after being adopted by extremist alt-right groups.

2012: Grumpy cat: Tardar Sauce the cat garnered attention because of his distinctly grumpy expression, which is actually caused by feline dwarfism and a severe underbite. Nonetheless, Grumpy Cat skyrocketed to fame, now holding 2.4 million followers on Instagram.

February 2015: The dress: The blue and black dress. Or maybe the gold and white one. This originally innocuous post snowballed into something that has the potential to tear apart families.

May 2015: The Dab: The dab originally developed as a hip-hop dance move in Atlanta, and gained prominence once NFL football players began using it to celebrate a successful play. It resembles dramatically covering a sneeze with an elbow.

June 2016: Caveman Spongebob: This still of a prehistoric ancestor of Spongebob (originally from the episode SB-129) became a popular way to describe a situation perceived as frantic, frustrating, wild or sexual.

May 2017: Mocking Spongebob: This meme is commonly used to communicate frustration or a mocking tone in response to someone’s opinion. The photo originated from a scene in the episode “Little Yellow Book” which originally aired in 2012.

December 2016: Send Nudes: The send nudes meme pokes fun at the creative ways to request sexually explicit photos. Generally follows the format of items being dropped and forming the phrase in question, as pictured with Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

October 2016: Cash me outside: Danielle Bregoli first turned heads as a Doctor Phil guest, where she shocked with her unique dialect. Her infamous phrase, “Cash me ousside, how bou that?” spawned Instagram captions a-plenty, and helped her launch a rap career.

May 2016: Harambe: Everyone’s favorite tragic figure. Harambe was shot and killed by his zookeepers after a three-year old boy climbed into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and was dragged by the gorilla. T-shirts, halloween costumes and memes ensued not long after in his honor.

April 2016: Confused Mr. Krabs: A confused and utterly shook looking Mr. Krabs is commonly used to convey a sense of uncertainty and surprise.

July 2017: Dancing hotdog: Originally debuting on Snapchat, the dancing hotdog made his rounds on social media sites for months.

August 2017: Distracted boyfriend: The distracted boyfriend is commonly used to reflect diverting one’s attention or interest to somewhere it probably shouldn’t be.

January 2018: Tide Pods: The brightly colored orbs of Tide laundry detergent began circulating as a meme when people began to consider what they’d taste like and how appealing they look.

May 2018: Is this a pigeon: In an episode of the 1990s Japanese anime program, “The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird,” a human character gestured towards a butterfly asking, “Is this a pigeon?” It has since been used on the internet to express confusion or mock someone’s misunderstanding of a situation.

November 2018: Shocked Pikachu: A shocked looking Pikachu is one of the latest memes to make Twitter rounds, and has a host of applications. 


About Matthew Fortin

Associate Arts and Life Editor