At any point in time, there is something happening to some person somewhere on this planet. These events can vary in scope, magnitude and effect. Some may affect many people but with little disturbance in their lives. Other occurrences can affect a small population but with drastic positive or negative aftereffects.
A person may then attach specific thoughts and feelings to these occurrences, which are then stored with good or bad connotations in their memories. However, people can and do experience similar situations at different moments in time – one may suffer through a particular situation at one point, and another may endure the same event seconds, days, months or even years afterwards. As time goes on, people share and discuss these shared experiences, reminiscing about times long gone or of amazing or depressing moments in their lives. The desire to share our view and understanding of the world is a core basis of a certain theme that we all know and love or hate – memes.
For most people, the word "meme" refers to those trendy, hilarious and insulting images that we see posted all over the Internet, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. However, the word "meme" has long existed before its Internet descendant. Its definition is the transmission of any idea, thought or mannerism between people that exerts an effect on a culture. A meme carries information in the form of these ideas, behaviors and symbols analogous to how biological genes transfer information and directly influence how people act and grow.
Without going too in-depth into the background of memes, though, the main idea is that memes are a tool and method for sharing information and experiences between people. The previous "Gangnam Style" craze and the explosive rise of "Harlem Shake" are excellent examples as memes. They transmitted a certain behavior or ideal which, like a virus, infected and spread quickly. The ideals behind them may be different depending on what each person sees in them, but many people will agree that it was for social fun.
They were a great tool for facilitating fun in a quirky, yet enjoyable manner between friends and strangers. The thousands of videos of people doing these dances and other equally weird things together are a testament to this ability to share experiences between different people all over the world.
Of course, examples of memes don't stop there. Another powerful example of memetic devices are pictures. We've all seen pictures of situations that many of us have been through, along with appropriate captions. These pictures include chronicles of pitiful yet relatable experiences with the opposite gender, as well as pictures of old television shows, video games and even ways of thinking. These images appeal to the memories we have held inside our minds, for better or for worse. There are few things that yank as strongly at my memories and feelings than memes concerning the '90s – the era where Disney movies reigned supreme, VHS was still the prime medium for shows and films, and the rage over seeing your characters die in that infamous game, "Oregon Trail.
"In these cases, memes delivered the ideals of nostalgia – they brought you back, however briefly, to a past that current and future generations will never enjoy or know about. For those born before my generation, the same could be said of them and their own era-specific memes, which also appeal to earlier times in their lives.
The foundation of memes, regardless of whether it takes the form of the more commonly known "Internet meme," or a style or behavior, is for the transmitting of particular ideals or thoughts. It is a tool to help share a person's thoughts and experiences with other people. As social beings, we want to socialize with other people and memes are an excellent way for this. It's much easier to make friends with someone who has similar experiences to yours, as you can relate to each other in regards to the feelings you may have felt in those shared situations, laughing together or consoling each other. Such a powerful tool is one that future generations will also use in their own lives as they look at the past, just like the feelings you have about your own past today.
— Jan Urbano is a junior in biochemistry and molecular biology. He can be reach at email@example.com.