History of Memes

Raúl Sosa   9-III

Memes are not a new concept. Every fashion trend, each new slang term, anything that influenced or reformed a person or a group because of the sheer fact that it was “popular” is a meme. The origin of the word comes from “Mimetics” coined by Richard Dawkins from DNA research, the word “mimetics” is an image that repeats itself. However, memes, define the spread of pop culture that has taken on a new medium, the Internet. Now, instead of spreading ideas, concepts, and behaviors through television, printed media, or word of mouth, we use websites. We make videos, compose graphics and have upgraded our environment to that of the technological world. Consequently, we have proceeded to reproduce our culture there. 

What is a meme?

Internet memes, as we know them today, are units of popular culture that are circulated, imitated and transformed by users. Limor Shifman, a key scholar in the study of internet memes, argues that a meme is not a single idea or image which is spread across social sites, but a group of items that were created with awareness of each other. For example, the famous Grumpy Cat meme is not the cat himself, but the whole set of memes generated with his image. 

How did memes start?

Memes have been around since long before the internet existed. In fact, they have been around since before Dawkins coined the term, showing up as early as 79 AD in a Pompeii ruin and as late as the 1970s, in graffiti.

The Sator Square is a palindrome of the five words “SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS” one on top of the next. You can read in any direction (assuming you read Latin), including upside down and backward. Although nobody knows for sure what it means, it has shown up over the centuries in different cultures all over the world, including France, England, Syria, and Italy.

The first meme on the internet was actually the sideways “smiley” – 🙂 – created in 1982 by American computer scientist Scott E. Fahlman. The practice of using punctuation markers to show emotion was quickly picked up by internet users all over the world, and several other expressions, such as 🙁 and ;-), were added to the repertoire of the “emoticon” meme.

In 1998, when the web was enjoying more mainstream use, the Hamster Dance meme – depicting rows of dancing hamster GIFs, became popular. By the end of June 1999, the site had been visited 17 million times. It later spawned a catchy song by the Cuban Boys and a viral remix by Hampton the Hamster, as well as several copycat sites. This meme, as simple as it may be, is one of the first examples of viral digital content.

Why are memes so popular?

The most popular and controversial meme is the ‘face -caption memes’. Most of these memes are rude, cheeky and racist, but this doesn’t stop people from posting them on their pages or sharing them on their social media. They feature people’s thoughts and experiences. 

Nowadays, people love to laugh about something together, which is why these memes are popular. They are active and connective. This is why memes spread across the internet like crazy and why memes are a popular phenomenon. The use of memes also created a platform of communication and interaction among users by allowing them to share their thoughts on everyday life, celebrity news, trends and events going on around them. 

Popular memes in the Dominican Republic

The most popular kind of memes around the Dominican Republic is about a candidate to presidency named Gonzalo Castillo. People often joke about this guy since many believe he is a ‘puppet’ for their current president and worries about what would happen if he were elected president. People are very aware of his apparent stupidity due to bloopers on national television, and for many, it’s just a good laugh. For example, he was asked how he would resolve the current cases of corruption in the country and his answer was not to be expected, people then proceeded to make memes with him saying the following: “What would you do with the cases of corruption? (asks a random person) “I aspire to be president, not judge” (answers Gonzalo). 

Memes in the future

Internet memes are something I probably won’t disappear anytime soon. Memes are like a bridge that connects people who share similar interests. It’s easy to make a meme, and it’s easy to share them. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and sites like Reddit, and Pinterest are known for featuring internet memes as a form of entertainment. Most people love it when there are trends and challenges for them to get involved or take part in. The spread of internet memes will continue to be humorous and scandalous in some cases, and forever grab people’s attention quicker than any other social media feature. These memes are unstoppable and unforgettable. We must accept it, whether we like it or no

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