How Friends, Companies, and Hate Groups Use Meme Culture

Like it or not, memes are a part of our social lives.

By Alain StephensOctober 6, 2016 12:40 pm,

It is defined as an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.

Lost yet? Okay, ever heard of Grumpy Cat, Crying Michael Jordan, or Dat Boi? We’re talking about memes.

You can dismiss the whole phenomenon of memes as trivial, unimportant, silly little internet jokes until you realize how much memes – ranging from the frivolous to scathing commentary – play a part in our social, even our political life today. This is the stuff communication scholars will study in the not too distant future, if they aren’t already. But of course, Omar Gallaga, of 512Tech powered by the Austin American-Statesman, is way ahead of the curve.

The question a lot of people ask about memes: where do they come from?

“They kind of just bubble up from places like 4chan, places like Reddit. And they’re created on the amateur side,” Gallaga says. “It’s people kind of remixing images, remixing ideas and jokes. And sometimes it can be tricky and hard to figure out where those memes came from, where that original idea is. And they morph and change and sometimes become something completely different from what the creator intended.”

One can draw comparisons to the surge of remix and sampling culture in the 1980s – when digital technology allowed musicians to take existing songs and re-interpret them into something new.

“And just like with music now where anyone can hop on a phone or tablet and create something, that’s the same with memes,” he says. “There’s meme generators where anyone can just go in and grab and image and put text on it and pass it on. And of course, we have social media and Vine, and all of these tools to do it with video as well.”

What you’ll hear in this segment: 

– How memes such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” can transcend their original intention

– The potential for advertisers to use memes and create “viral content”

– The dark side of memes being used as hate speech