What The Heck Is A Meme? Breaking Down Internet 101

Just because you “use” internet, doesn’t mean you “know” internet. One facet of the internet many people see but don’t truly understand is the meme.

Why is that Velociraptor proposing deep, existential questions that boggle my mind? Who has access to Hillary Clinton’s phone? Before you can enjoy and understand memes like “Philosoraptor,” “Texts From Hillary” or any of the other countless memes that exist today, you first need to understand the difference between a meme and another internet term people like to throw around; “viral.”

While the two are similar, they are also different. Viral is defined as “quickly and widely spread or popularized especially by person-to-person electronic communication.” A meme on the other hand means “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

Oh man… definitions are boring.  Sorry about that.  Let’s bring some pop culture into the mix to make this easier.

Remember when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Awards with his “I’mma let you finish” rant?  Within moments that incident spread across social media, made news headlines and the video (most of which have been taken down. Thanks, MTV) would be posted across countless websites.

That is an instance of something going viral.  But the “I’mma let you finish” idea would become a meme because it has the ability to evolve and can be altered.  There is where you, user of internet, get creative using either a snowclone:

611 What The Heck Is A Meme? Breaking Down Internet 101

Or “Kanye Interrupt Videos,” the first of which was a mash-up made by graphic designer Patrick St. John and gave rise to hundreds of others.

Let’s sum this up as briefly as possible: Memes pass from one person to another, but don’t necessarily go viral because, well, they could be stupid and nobody cares about them.  But if LOLs ensue, the meme continues to grow and spread.  Anything that goes viral will impact ideas, culture or style on a mass scale but not be a meme because it doesn’t have the ability to evolve and progress.

Now, here are a few memes for you to enjoy:


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Texts from Hillary

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson: “We’re dealing with a badass”

ragecomicbada What The Heck Is A Meme? Breaking Down Internet 101

Nyan Cat

Happy internetting, folks.

– E.J. Judge for CBS Digital

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