Memes Explained Simply

Memes – All You Need To Know

In this article, we’ll unpack all you need to know about memes, defining exactly what they are, their evolutionary role, how they impact human psychology and more.

What Is a Meme?

The term meme was originally coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene to describe a unit of cultural information.

What Is An Example Of A Meme?

An example of a meme is that of the “distracted boyfriend” which features a photo of a man checking out another woman who is passing by while his girlfriend looks at him disapproval.

It became popular for its humorous relatable portrayal of someone being tempted or distracted by something new despite already having something valuable.

Example Of A Meme - Distracted Boyfriend

The Evolutionary Perspective

From an evolutionary perspective, a meme is anything that conveys information that spreads within a culture analogously to genes in biological evolution, subject to variation, competition and inheritance, thus shaping cultural evolution.

What Is The Role Of Memes?

Memes function as a form of communication that encapsulates information into easily digestible content. They serve as heuristics that enable humans to rapidly convey information. This efficiency in communication therefore makes memes a powerful tool for cultural transmission and social commentary.

A meme is the cultural equivalent of genes which evolve within culture and propagate through the process of mimesis. The same way genes transmit biological information, memes transmit cultural information.

“Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.” ― Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

How They Spread

Memes are decentralized and permissionless, meaning that they can be created, modified and shared by anyone, without the need for approval or oversight from a central authority. This open nature facilitates a wide and diverse range of expressions and ideas, contributing to their viral spread and impact on culture.

Memes can manifest through either physical expressions such as spoken words or gestures or digital expressions such as text, images or videos. The internet has served as a potent accelerant for memes.

A good meme is relatable and thus is easy to understand. A bad meme is unrelatable and thus is hard to understand.

Memes & Crypto

Memes harness key characteristics of web culture such as sociability, replicability and participation.

Meme coins can be considered “culture coins” and are essentially a way of financially “investing” in memes, trends and virality. Previously, this was not possible before from a capital perspective. All you could do was mimic a meme yourself for extra social capital, for example the ice bucket challenge.

Now however, crypto rails enable new forms of financial transmission. Both memes and culture are fundamental differentiating aspects of what makes humans, humans. With crypto, they are supercharged.

Memes are the instant tokenisation of culture.

Summary (TL;DR)

The term meme describes a unit of cultural information. It is the cultural equivalent of genes which evolve and are transferred through the process of imitation.

A meme functions as a form of communication that allows information to be quickly and efficiently transmitted. They can be expressed either physically or digitally. The good ones survive. The bad ones die.


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