Article | Open Select
Media Watch | E-ISSN 2249-8818
Emerging Media Paradigms: A Study on Influences of Internet Memes
Suresh Chandra Nayak
Amity University Chhattisgarh, India
“Hundreds of Billions of Dollars are spent every year to control the public mind” (Noam Chomsky). With the evolution of technology: news, memes, and satirical comedies have been trending all around the internet. In the media paradigm, memes have begun to play an important role in brand management. It has been a medium to propagate and criticize the actions of the hypocritical society. Memes have created a new aura on social media platforms. The media has the sole responsibility to progress the public’s minds. Still, the constant shifts and changes in the trends and contents have been a source of amusement that has often led to miscommunication. There has been a circulation of internet memes on social media like Facebook or Instagram. Today, Freedom of Expression has led to new threats and abasement of the image in the public that helps in marketing. Memes help to shape an image on social media. People are critical of the changes that are constantly taking place in the sections of society. Comical satires are added to the memes to expose the reality of public figures and hypocritical society. This has been a popular communication medium amongst youngsters to speak their minds. In the present research paper, the researchers have apprehended memes’ role in creating awareness, shaping an image, promoting marketing, and creating publicity on social media through a survey method.
Keywords: Emerging media, Internet memes, social media, new media paradigm
Neuman (1991), more than a decade ago, argued that what we define as emerging media will a) alter the influence of distance, b) increase the volume and speed of communications, c) enable interactive communications and d) permit the merging of media forms (American Journal of Business). During the 1990s, online technologies, in general, and the World Wide Web, in particular, captured America’s imagination with extraordinary intensity. This was expressed in an array of statements about major societal transformations, such as the creation of virtual communities and the coming of a new economy. For example, in an influential book about virtual communities, Howard Rheingold argued that “whenever [computer-mediated communication] technology becomes available to people anywhere, they inevitably build virtual communities with it, just as microorganisms inevitably create colonies” (1994, p. 6). Today, social media usage statistics are mind-boggling: almost two billion people are Facebook users, over one billion people communicate via WhatsApp, over forty billion pictures are posted on Instagram, and over one million snaps are sent on Snapchat daily (Laskin, 2018).
Memes have created a new place in the mind of society. It brings a smile to the face. Memes are trendy and viral on various social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Today, Meme pages surfing the internet are outnumbered and earn a huge profit through sponsorship. Memes don’t bring up novelty, but it helps to increase traffic on the websites. Memes are interactive. It promotes communication. The hyper-connected group creates it with a common vision.
The modern term ‘Meme’ is the replica of ‘Mimeme’ used in the book. ‘The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins in 1976. The word means ‘imitation’ or ‘that which can imitate.’ The genesis of the meme can grow and multiply like a gene, a physical trait. The definition stated in the ‘Oxford Dictionary’ is ‘An image, video, etc., humorous in nature, copied and spread rapidly by the internet users often with slight variation.’ It is a selected evolution of an idea. Genes tend to copy each other. It inherits cultures and other physical traits that are passed along.
Memes existed before the advent of the internet. It sped like wildfire in the world of the internet. A small group of people started using memes and circulated them using a message board and Usenet. The first meme in the world is ‘Ally McBeal’ or A Dancing Baby, or a baby doing Cha-Cha-Cha steps. The Graphic Designer Michael Girard first programmed the steps of a baby through the computer.
There are various categories of memes with their flavours, such as Normie memes are relatable and recognized by many. There is no deep knowledge, but a large section of the people understands the message implied. On the other hand, a dank meme is fresh and new in context. However, it can sometimes be offensive and shows situations where crimes are normalized. Such as memes on homophobia or racism was quite a trend a few days ago. Surreal memes create an illusion. It comes with the touch of surrealism humorously. The first surreal meme was the ‘Poorly made 3D head known as ‘Meme Man.’ Wholesome memes show the sweet affection that prevails in society. It is a meme on love, affection, friendship, and so on. It has got trending on a social platform called tumblr.com. They are creative and are quite popular in the youth culture.
Memes create a new economy—various sites such as knowyourmeme.com, memedump.com, and so on archive memes. Many PR and advertising agencies hire paid bloggers to create memes that help them communicate and brand their products in the market. Memes promote ideologies and stereotypes. It is a tool of propaganda that creates an image amongst the public. However, Memes positively help to learn creatively. It brings a small break from the busy, hasty schedule.
Lots of internet articles say that memes boost creativity among students. It helps them to grow and grasp new ideas. The memes get viral and bring new people into the market. It can sometimes bring back lost customers in the market.
The book ‘The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore (2000) talks about the memes which tend to copy and passed along from one generation to another. Here, the science of memes, known as ‘Memetics’, has been discussed. It also discussed the origination of the word ‘meme’ by Richard Dawkins in the last chapter of the book. Also, Blackmore discusses the definition of memes and the complexities related to memes in the book.
‘Memes in digital culture’ by ‘Limor Shifman’ (2013) says about memes going viral on the digital platform. The unique features of the internet have turned out to be interesting and outspread. Shifman has also mentioned that the term ‘Viral’ and ‘Memes’ are used interchangeably in the book. In the eighth chapter, Shifman made an excellent analysis of how memes participate in the political discourse. There is a sharp contrast between internet memes and internet humour. Memes create memories, establish new creative jobs, and help get customers innovatively. It helps to bring some change in the ideologies and brings a break in the monotonous life. Memes help us to see the realistic ground and, thus, can be a great change.
Internet Memes and Society: Social, Cultural, and Political Contexts by Anastasia Denisova discuss the definition of Internet memes, exploring both the common features of memes around the globe and their particular regional traits. Denisova identifies and explains these viral texts’ roles in Internet communication. The above book offers comparative case studies of Internet memes in Russia and the United States.
The main objective of this research paper is to analyze the influential nature of internet memes. With the help of various authentic sources and data, the researcher has tried to apprehend the priority of memes in decision-making. Mostly, internet memes support the visualization of big personalities, so the researcher examines the publicity created by memes in the digital era that would promote the image on social platforms. The researcher has analyzed the use of internet memes in providing information that would lead to some thought processes.
The researchers have carried out the survey method to understand the impact of memes on social networking sites. The researcher selected the youngsters because of the convenience of the sample, and youngsters are more addicted to social networking platforms. The researchers have conducted a survey method where the participants belong to the different colleges of Raipur. There are 100 students from different colleges in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. Fifty students were boys, and 50 were girls. The survey was carried out in 2020. All the students actively participated in the survey. The researcher has chosen the convenient sampling method as people of all ages widely use today’s social sites. Youngsters invest most of their time in social networking platforms. The motive of the survey method was entirely educational, and the researcher analyzed the influence of memes in the lives of youngsters.
H1. Memes are used as a tool to create publicity.
H2. Memes furnish and promote the real image.
H3. Internet memes are often useful in decision-making.
- Do you know the exact definition of a meme?: According to the survey, around 58.70% say they know the exact definition of a meme, whereas 41.30% say they do not know its exact definition.
- Do you enjoy memes?: According to the survey, around 66.9% of youngsters say that they enjoy memes, whereas 13.40% do not enjoy memes. However, 19.7% of the youth enjoy memes sometimes.
- Have you ever created memes on someone? The total 55.1% of the youth have not created memes on someone. In contrast, 34.6% of the youth have created memes about someone. But 10.30% of the youth always created memes about someone.
- If you were a brand or a big personality, how would you have felt if someone had created a meme about you? Around 51.90% of the youth would have taken it light-heartedly. On the other hand, 22.10% of the youth would have ignored the meme, whereas 3.9% of the youth would have acted defensively. Therefore, 5.80% of the youth must have felt inferior about the meme created upon them. However, 16.3% of the youth say it depends on the context.
- Do you support memes only on big personalities? Around 71.2% of the youth say that they only support memes based on big personalities. In comparison, 28.80% of the students were completely against it.
- Do you find memes informative and useful? Around 55.4% of the youth say that memes are informative and useful. At the same time, 44.6% of the youth say that memes do not provide any information.
- Do you prioritize memes in your daily life? Around 64.1% of the students prioritize memes in their daily lives. At the same time, 35.9% of the students do not prioritize memes in their daily lives.
- Which genre of meme do you enjoy often? About 51%of the youth say that they enjoy the surreal genre of memes. 14.8% of the youth say that they enjoy Normie memes. 12.90% of the youth say they enjoy the wholesome category of memes. Finally, 11.6% of the youth say they enjoy the dank category of the meme, whereas 10% say that they enjoy other meme types.
- Do you think memes promote real images? About 55.8% of the students say memes promote real images, whereas 44.20% say memes do not promote real images.
- Do you think memes create publicity? Around 73.1% of the students feel that memes create publicity. But at the same time, around 26.90% of the students say that memes have no role in creating publicity.
Analysis and Discussion
The majority of people have similar viewpoints. Most people know the exact definition of memes and enjoy creating them. Most people have not created memes about someone, but they often find memes funny. However, more than half of the audience believes memes should only visualize the big personality, as the researcher has observed memes promote authentic images. Most people enjoy surreal memes more than any other categorization. The majority of participants believe that memes help in publicity.
Today, people of every generation know the definition of ‘Meme.’ It is not limited to any specificity but is widespread amongst social platforms. Memes boost our energies and refresh us. With the touch of creativity in memes, the developer brings a smile to the face. Memes bring publicity and humour to the information. It helps the youngsters to understand the seriousness of the current scenario. Memes build a new craze and enhance creative ideas. Various genres of memes, such as political, social, economic, and so on, add a Midas touch. Memes help to create publicity amongst customers. Though it shouldn’t be of much priority, it is impactful and attractive. People love memes. Paid bloggers earn a handsome amount through memes. The meme creators are hired to create publicity for the company’s products. Additionally, PR companies hire meme creators to captivate customers to buy their brand or grab any consumer benefit. Memes can never go out of fashion.
From the above study, it is clear that Internet memes spread an impactful message to society; hence, it dramatically affects the mind. Since many claims to know the exact definition of memes, most people don’t prioritize internet memes and solely consider them an element of humour. Though most people have not created memes on anyone, they support memes only on the big personality that would promote their real images; for instance, memes on political figures show the conflicts in the arena, whereas social memes define the hypocrisy prevailing in the society. Therefore, most people do not take memes seriously, but at the same time, they consider them useful and informative in thought-making.
- Denisova, A. (2020). Internet memes and Society: Social, cultural, and political contexts. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
- Denisova, Anastasia. Internet Memes and Society: Social, Cultural and Political Contexts. Routledge, 2019.
- S. (2013). Memes in Digital Culture (2013. New York ; London: Routledge.
- L. (2013). Memes in digital culture (2013. New York ; London: Routledge.
- L. (2014). The spread of memes and social media: Online persona construction and Offline lives in selected examples of Films and Television. New York ; London: Routledge.
- B. (2014). The spread of memes and social media: Online persona construction and Offline lives in selected examples of Films and Television. New York ; London: Routledge. doi:10.1177/1461444814535194
Suresh Chandra Nayak is a Professor and Director of Amity School of Communication, Amity University Chhattisgarh, India. His areas of specialization are development communication, advertising and public relations.