A meme can be described as a repeated image (usually of a humorous nature) spread across the internet, such as viral images. Around 2006, images of cats overlaid with the wording “I can haz cheezburger” floated around this internet only to be followed by “Charlie the Unicorn” videos on Youtube. This phenomenon began to rapidly grow after Youtube’s creation in 2005. Earlier fringe memes can be found through the 90’s and early 2000’s, the launch of 4chan in 2003 being a major catalyst. This obsession with viral jokes and social commentary may perhaps tell us about who we are as a generation as well as outline the issues facing millennials today.
The strange and often chaotic nature of memes is reminiscent of the art form Dadaism. Dadaism is an avant-garde art form that arose out of Europe around 1915. It has roots in Surrealism and is considered to be anti-art. The art form was often associated with anti-war ideology and liberalism, it sought to dissect and destroy the bourgeois through use of collage and abstraction. Dadaism rebelled against logic as it saw rationalism and conservatism to be the cause of war and major conflict. It was not concerned with aesthetic beauty or symmetry in mind, but rather the destruction of coherent forms. Memes often follow this lack of sense and can be viewed as a form of internet based rebellion against consumerist culture and social oppression.
Flash forward to now, where memes can be found on pages such as Reddit, 4chan, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and various websites. Meme content often features low brow humor but has grown over recent years to call attention to social issues, feminism, politics, racism, and mental health issues. Some notable meme Instagram accounts include Scariest_bug_ever and Gothshakira. Oftentimes, the attraction of memes is that they entail a thought or feeling that is relatable, whether or not you are even aware of feeling that way. There is so much that goes unspoken in this day and age which contradicts our underlying desire for openness and connection that the internet fosters, often availing over face to face interactions.
The internet is a platform where users can feel safe to explore themselves as well as network with people and pages that they can relate to. This desire for relate ability is a niche market in the world of mainstream media which seeks to streamline personality as a means of achieving false “oneness.” Rather than being force fed advertising, pop culture, celebrity news, and societal expectations, creating and sharing memes helps one to reclaim their identity in an era of auto-tuned emotions and the standardization and assimilation of personal histories. We are in a time where drastic change is happening all around us and social progression is at an all time high, yet we feel powerless. The creation and sharing of memes can connect us in a real way as well as offering us the opportunity to reclaim ourselves, our emotions, and our humor as our own.