Tech corner

What do you meme? (A short history of memes)


A fun look at when the meme craze first started and how it has evolved over the years

It’s almost impossible to spend a day browsing the internet without seeing at least one meme, whether it was shared on your Facebook feed or attached to an email from a particularly quirky colleague. We’ve decided to take a fun look at when the meme craze first started and how it has evolved over the years.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a meme as an image, a video, a piece of text, etc. that is passed very quickly from one Internet user to another, often with slight changes that make it humorous”.

Memes as we know them first started to make waves back in the mid ‘90s, when the internet was still new and super exciting to most of us. Some vintage memes include Rickrolling, the O RLY? Owl, and the pop culture inspired classic One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor. Memes were much simpler in format back then, mostly consisting of a funny photograph with different versions of text overlaid depending on who made the meme and what the context was.

As time passed, the guidelines that class something as a meme have changed rapidly, and now there’s a hot new meme craze sweeping the internet almost weekly. Though we’re only three months into 2019, we’ve already had the pleasure of experiencing the Cheesing phenomenon and this bizarre yet hilarious trend of editing fake subtitles onto photos of Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo movies.

Modern memes come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes vary depending on what social media platform you’re on. Many memes also rely on new forms of media to work, such as movies or songs. When Netflix’s popular thriller Birdbox was released, a meme formed almost immediately using this photoshopped image of Shrek, with people revealing the situations that would make them remove their blindfold if they were living in the Birdbox universe.

Pop star Ariana Grande’s hit song ‘thank u, next’ also inspired a wave of posts where people took the lyrics “one taught me love, one taught me patience, one taught me pain” and applied them to images of popular fictional characters, like this Walking Dead tweet. Even celebrities often get in on the action, such as when Kyle McLachlan posted this tweet about some of his Twin Peaks characters.

One social media platform that inspired hundreds of memes was the video app Vine. Though Vine was shut down several years back, the popular videos that came from it are still floating around the internet and are widely shared, often in threads on Twitter, or compilation videos on YouTube. Recently, the newer video app TikTok has started to fill the void that Vine left, with content creators posting funny and bizarre videos that often blow up on social media.

Simply put, memes are everywhere, and it’s unlikely that they’ll stop being such an iconic part of the online experience anytime soon. The only question is what will come next, and will it be as iconic as Bad Luck Brian?

Sign up for our newsletter

Error loading Partial View script (file: ~/Views/MacroPartials/InsertUmbracoFormWithTheme.cshtml)

KCOM respects your privacy. View our Privacy Notice to learn more.