We’ve heard of memes. If you haven’t, then you most likely live under a rock, on top of a mountain away from civilization. We see them in every social media we know of. More often than not, we tend to send them to our friends via group chats or private messages and post them as our status on Facebook. It’s the most millennial thing there is. Almost any picture or short video, as long as there’s a caption, can become a meme. It expresses thoughts and emotions that can never be replicated by words and has such impact that one glance can make a person burst out in laughter. Like an infectious virus, it quickly spreads from person to person, its popularity growing by the sheer power of the internet and the millennials’ fondness for social media.
But what exactly is a meme? Most of us would say it’s a picture with relatable words, or complete nonsense that shouldn’t have been invented at all. In actuality, a meme is a cultural depiction of sorts, an idea that is captured in humorous representation—in the modern version anyway. Memes can be comical in an obvious fashion, while a rare few can actually be philosophical. It was introduced by a biologist named Richard Dawkins in his work ‘The Selfish Gene’ in 1976. The word came from the Greek word ‘Mimema’, which means ‘something imitated’. Memes are a cultural equivalent of biological genes, a form of ‘selfish’ gene that reproduces, transmits and evolves itself. Culturally speaking, a meme can take many forms, such as an idea, a thought or a skill. Its process of replication involves a person imitating a certain idea or unit of thought from another person and transmitting it through communication.
A little too philosophical, isn’t it? For a word that had such an origin, one would think it would’ve evolved into a method of propagation that didn’t involve funny faces.
But it did, and now it provides entertainment for those who love surfing the net. However, it has its hazards. Most especially for those who are the subject of these aforementioned memes. One example would be a model who was wrongly accused and had almost lost her job because of a meme that went viral. It featured a photo of her and a handsome man with less-than-pleasing-to-the-eye children with captions that heavily suggested she had undergone plastic surgery. She denied the claim, complaining about how it ruined her life. The same can be said for countless others who had their pictures presented in jesting ways without their consent.
It’s okay to laugh at memes, that’s their main purpose. It’s okay to share, we want others to relate to whatever catches our fancy. It’s okay, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s difficult, reasonably speaking, but not impossible. You might not realize it, but one simple share can wreck someone’s life and reputation.
Like Pia Wurtzbach once said, “Think before you click.”
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