Relaunch: A Meme Renaissance

It has been almost a year since I launched The Science of Memes. I’ll admit that when I had started, I had great hopes for this blog. Sadly, however, due to academic and other pressure, I was unable to continue posting, and the site sort of went into oblivion. However, recently, some of my friends urged me to get back to this blog, because apparently, I was doing a good job. So after much internal debate, I have decided to relaunch The Science of Memes.

I have several plans for this page now. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure of what kind of content to post, but I have decided on the following headings:

  • Meme of the Month: Due to the constantly evolving nature of memes, one meme hardly stays in vogue for long, and this column will let you know what’s been the hottest this month.
  • Meme Pioneers: I will review a famous meme page from Facebook, commenting on the nature of their content, recount the story of their rise to success, and analyze why their content appeals to such a wide audience.
  • Raiders of the Lost Meme: Memes that were once famous, but are now all but forgotten, will dug up the grave and fondly remembered.

Of course, as usual, I will try to provide a detailed analysis of said memes; a detailed understanding of why a meme worked will help you create your own.

Of course, over time, I will gradually add more and more columns. I do wish to concentrate on quantity, but I do not wish to sacrifice quality as well. It’s true that often I get knee-deep into my course work, but I will try to make sure that the blog doesn’t suffer because of that.

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How I Became a Meme

It is an ongoing practice among students to make memes about their peers. In fact, as a leading expert in memes in my college, I have created a large number of memes of my batch-mates. It was only a matter of time before the tables were turned on me.

One morning, a couple of months ago, I had taken a bath just before going to class. My hair (which is somewhat long) was damp, and it looks very awkward when I do a back-brush. As a result, my friends were laughing at me. During this exchange, at one point of time, one of my closest friends, Diptanil Roy, clicked a photo of me (the featured photo for this post), which was very soon circulated on WhatsApp with the caption:

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Despite the poor grammar, he kicked off a chain reaction in which this photo soon became an accepted reaction when confusion is to be conveyed. Many variations of this were spawned (a few created even by myself). Eventually, the very first one found its way up to 9GAG, thanks to another close friend, Bibhabasu Patra.

An interesting feature that meme (which is a Reaction Meme) is that the context of this meme was created entirely artificially. The expression on my face was created completely by chance, and at that point of time, had nothing to do with confusion. However, lucky photographs like this have led to a large number of memes such as Nicolas Cage’s You Don’t Say? and Obama’s Not Bad faces. The Persian Cat Room Guardian, mentioned in my previous post, also serves as a kind of reaction meme, since it has a facial element.

Reaction memes perhaps make up the largest class of memes. From photographs of random people taken at the appropriate time, to shots of celebrities on the TV and silver screen, to crudely drawn but highly appealing rage comics: wherever we need to express an emotion in reaction to something, we often resort to a reaction meme, because a picture is worth a thousand words. I don’t know what Facebook had initially envisioned as the intended use of the Photo-comment option, but it is undoubtedly the best place to come across, or use, reaction memes.

But why use a reaction meme? A long used method of communicating emotion has been to use emoticons. The reason why memes appeal to many as a mode of reaction, are, in my opinion, as follows:

  1. Just like emoticons, memes such as Nick Cage’s Reaction series have an almost universal renown.
  2. What emoticons lack grossly, memes provide in plenty: humor. There is always a chance that a well constructed meme will provide some entertainment, even if it is created as a reaction. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone has ever felt amused looking at a 😀 or a lol.
  3. A huge variety of memes is available online, and a large number of online resources allow you to create memes easily. Thus, you can very quickly construct a meme to fit your exact reaction, just right.

There are, however, certain drawbacks to using reaction memes as well.

  1. Some memes, especially those with a smaller outreach, may not be readily recognised by everyone. Many memes are only only pertinent to a certain group and using it elsewhere may not convey the correct emotion.
  2. It is not always easy to select the right meme. As mentioned before, using the wrong meme often leads to very anticlimactic effects and undesirable result. Remember: if a joke needs to be explained, it fails as a joke, and the same goes for a meme.

Before signing off for today, I’d like to say a few things:

  • The Follow button has been added to the home page, thanks to my buddy Gaurish Korpal. Do him a favor by visiting his blog as well, at gaurish4math.wordpress.com.
  • I have almost zero experience running a blog, so I would really appreciate comments from my readers.
  • If you like this blog, kindly spread the word about it.
  • Due to my tight schedule, I may not be able to post regularly. I’ll try to make larger and more substantial posts during weekends.
  • Although this blog is called The Science of Memes, I intend to post other content as well, perhaps small (but significant) events out of my life, maybe a new aqcuisition, or a book/movie/game review. I will try not to digress a lot, but I hope my readers will not find such posts objectionable.

What makes a good meme?

A good meme must satisfy two criteria:

  1. Relevance
  2. Minimalism

By relevance, what I mean is that the viewer must be able to immediately relate between the image and its caption. On the other hand, the image must a powerful enough symbol so as to make sure that we need not have a long text to accompany the meme. If we follow these two rules, we will be able to use images that apparently have nothing to do with the scenario, yet, describe the situation perfectly. Take, for example, this one:

Me: Mom, my stomach hurts.

Mom: That’s because you are always on your phone.

Me:
persian-cat-770x297

The blank stare, the unhappy face and the clear gesture of confusion of the Persian Cat Room Guardian accurately demonstrates our reaction to such an absurd response. In short, here, instead of expressing our emotion with a lot of words, we replaced it with a single, relevant, powerful image. In fact, in my opinion, memes are but advanced forms of emoticons.

Sometimes, the association may come from a different source instead of the photo itself, but from the circumstances from which the photo originated. For example:

Me: Oh God please get me outta this mess I’ll behave for the rest of my life oh Lord please…

God:
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Most Internet users would be familiar with the song “Why the Fuck You Lyin’?” from which this song originates. Constant use has made this association in our head, allowing us to instantly recognize this as a reaction to lying.

Of course, connections may be artificially created as well, as a result of constant usage, but that’s a different issue of discussion.