Why Memes are Beautiful, and Why They’re UglyPosted: February 23, 2012
If you’re not in awe of internet memes, you should be.
For years, decades, eons maybe, really smart people have felt frustrated by the fact that they have really great ideas or observations, but can’t really get them to spread.
For a while, I, myself, had assumed that writing 20 page research papers, (or, God forbid, a book) could help get my thoughts across. FALSE. Books are boring. I personally don’t mind reading a good book here and there, but nobody seems to have the time for them anymore. When I was at Georgetown-Qatar, I watched on as incredibly intelligent professors wrote lengthy papers that were simply read by, you guessed it, other incredibly intelligent professors. So you can imagine my surprise when this handsome fellow made his way into the Internetz.
9gag.com has an average of about 1 million daily visitors, and about 5 million pages views a day. This website estimates that 9gag.com is now worth $31,658,633 US dollars. Recently, the Lebanese have a taken a strong liking to 9gag memes, flooding my home page with “Y U NO??!”, and “One Does Not Simply Eat Tawook, and Still Have Friends” (thanks for that, by the way). So I got curious, and asked myself , “why are these stupid things so viral?”
Well, in his blog, Seth Godin, offers a few answers.
For the most part, content today has to be easy to consume, quick, and shiny for it to be shared. In this sense, it is so beautiful that memes have this ability to break down thoughtful observations into 5 words and a stick figure.
But here’s the problem that I’ve noticed. Memes may spread very fast, but they burn out even faster. For example, I’ve been keeping track of the AUB Memes page on Facebook for quite some time now. The page was created on February 2nd, and only four days later, they had more than a thousand fans. Only last week, they were my news feed’s favorite thing. They had 3,000 fans, and even more people talking about them! This is any marketer’s dream, and understandably, they gloated.
Sadly enough, interest in the page shrunk faster than you can say “honey, I shrunk the kids”.
You see, memes, like catchphrases, slogans, Bieber songs, and jokes, may spread like wild fire, but like wild fire, they quickly turn into ashes. In the spirit of easy consumption and visualization, here’s a graph based (roughly) on AUB Memes data.