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Memes: What are They?


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I Can Has a Cheezburger? is a weblog featuring lolcats, created by Eric Nakagawa in 2007

Whether they are referred to as Memes or Meems, it is likely you have seen one of these on the Internet. A meme is defined as being short for the Greek word, mimeme, which means “imitated thing.” These “imitated things” are used to explain the way cultural information spreads. They began in the 1970s by a man named Harry Frees (who took photos of his cats and made them into greeting cards) and today they have spread like wildfire. The official meme phenomenon did not hit full swing until 2001, and since then has been very popular, especially among high school and college students.

According to Anita Li’s article What’s in a Meme?, Memes can be photos, commercials, comics, gif’s, videos, and image macros (line of text about picture and punch line beneath).

College Memes

This week, it was suggested I write about Memes, “because many people don’t know what they are.” This suggestion seemed rather funny to me because Memes are very popular at the University of Denver. There is a Facebook page titled “DU Meme Page” where students can share Memes they have created themselves. Like DU, many college campuses have similar Facebook pages.

Memes have become all the rage for students trying to share funny facts and pictures of their University. Colleges that are well known for the mass amounts of Memes that they share online include: Boston University, University of Texas, Purdue, and Indiana. For a better understanding of how these work and what they look like, check out the Facebook Meme pages for these universities!

So What Goes in a Meme?

Essential elements of a Meme include: 1. The image needs to have a target audience so that it can be shared. 2. The image needs to be funny. 3. Memes should be shared on large social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Reddit.

Memes often have the same images used over and over again with different text incorporated. There are all different kinds of Memes, but one thing they have in common is that they all are humorous in one way or another. Here are a few examples:

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Meme Image via: University of Denver Facebook Meme Page

This Meme, created by a student, was posted after the University of Denver hosted the presidential debate in October 2012.

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Meme Image via

Join The Conversation

  • BradFriedman's picture
    Jun 14 Posted 3 years ago BradFriedman

    Thanks Andre. I tend to agree that the Meme is often more impactful when the image itself is funny.

  • SocialMktgFella's picture
    Jun 13 Posted 3 years ago SocialMktgFella

    Great and useful article full of context. I don't know that I agree with 2. The image needs to be funny.

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