Meaning of Meme

What is Meme:

Popularly, a type of content that spreads through social networks is known as a meme, which consists of the deliberate association of elements (for example, an image and a text) in the same significant unit, resulting in the representation of an idea, concept, opinion or situation. They are usually called specifically internet meme.

Memes have gained great value as a cultural manifestation, since they not only play a role in digital society as a form of entertainment, but also communicate values ​​and opinion patterns. They allow, therefore, to record or capture the force-ideas that move in the collective imagination.

For example:


Although the most popular form of the meme is the image with associated text, edited videos or audio files also qualify as memes.

Origin of the word meme

The word meme was created by Richard Dawkins in 1976, long before the appearance of the Internet. It is a neologism that results from the adaptation between the English word gene (which means gene) and the words memory Y mimesis (imitation).

Dawkins introduced the word meme for the first time in his book the selfish gene, framed in the theories of cultural diffusion. It originally referred to a minimum unit of cultural information that is transmitted from subject to subject and from generation to generation, either by teaching, imitation or assimilation. Thus, memes are to culture what genes are to biology.

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In its original sense, memes range from ideas to verbal expressions, gestures, theories, opinions and all kinds of values ​​and symbolic goods that compete with each other to be transmitted and integrated as part of the consolidated culture.

The novel, viral and influential nature of Internet memes soon became a phenomenon of enormous interest to the social and communication sciences, resulting in the appropriation of the name created by Dawkins.

Origin and evolution of memes

Some place the origins of the meme in the famous animated video “Dancing Baby”, “Baby Cha-Cha” or “the Oogachacka Baby”, which was widely disseminated through the Internet. world Wide Web and email in the second half of the 1990s, to the point that it appeared in the most watched TV series of that time, Ally McBeal.


Screenshot of “Dancing Baby”

Internet memes, as we know them, appeared approximately between 2000 and 2002. Their evolution and viralization process is closely related to the main function of the Internet: sharing information, a process that has been facilitated since the development of the main social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and others.

Along with this, the elaboration of memes has multiplied thanks to the appearance of pages and applications (apps) that offer services such as meme generators, as well as data banks.

See also Social networks (RRSS).

function of memes

At an elementary level, memes have the function of transmitting a message. This can be an opinion, a concept or an idea. It is not uncommon for memes to resort to humor and/or irony.

In any case, memes are an expression of the values ​​that circulate in society and compete to become hegemonic. Its success, however, depends on the receiver sharing the same cultural references as the sender of the message.

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On another level, many memes collaborate in the propaganda of masked people or products. For this reason, the viralization mechanism of memes is often associated with viral marketing campaigns that, indirectly, position a figure or product in the market, turning it into a recognizable reference before or after the official launch.

Characteristics of memes

According to Limor Shifman, the memes that manage to go viral are characterized by sharing the following elements:

  • Longevity: that is, capacity to signify over time;
  • Fertility: the message is clear, which increases its incidence and possibility of replication;
  • Replication fidelity: the original meaning of the meme is maintained in the replication.

Types of internet memes

Depending on the format

Image Memes:

This type of memes uses the association of images and text. The interrelation between all these elements generates a new meaning.

For example:


internet face

They are those memes of images that associate an expressive face to some sentence or reasoning. As a rule, these faces are typified.

For example:

  • wow
  • PokerFace
  • forever alone
  • troll face
  • OK
  • lol face
  • Challenge accepted
  • cereal man


Example of the most used icons in memes of the Internet Faces type.


memes in text

They are those that only use text. Many times they are a screenshot taken from an application such as Twitter.

For example:


video memes

They are memes that use edited videos, either in the visual sequence or with the introduction of a new dubbing.

depending on the theme

social memes

They seek to raise awareness around social problems. They can refer to political, economic, religious, etc.

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For example:


thoughtful memes

They are those aimed at providing personal improvement advice and inspiring phrases.

For example:


humorous memes

They use humor as a form of entertainment. They often resort to irony. Many times they are also a vehicle for the transmission of opinions.

For example:


situation memes

They are those that represent a situation that frequently manifests itself in daily life, and that in some way reflects the problems that must be dealt with.

For example: