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Memetics: Why Memes Actually Matter

What is a Meme?

The fact that the information shared online is always changing owing in part to the ingenuity of users who remix, parody, or caption famous photos or videos to create memes ensures that there is never a dull moment on the internet.

History of Memes

Despite their widespread appeal, few people realize that memes have their roots in academics. Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary scientist, coined the term meme (meaning, "imitated") in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

Memes, according to Dawkins, are the cultural equivalent of biological genes, and they, like "selfish" genes, are in charge of their reproduction and hence serve their own goals.

Memes, in this sense, convey information, are duplicated and are passed down from one person to the next. Memes may take many forms within a society, including an idea, a talent, a behavior, a phrase, or a specific trend.

When one individual replicates a unit of cultural knowledge that makes up a meme from another person, this is known as meme replication and transmission.

Transmission is generally accomplished by verbal, visual, or technological communication, which can range from books and discussions through television, e-mail, and the Internet. Memes that are the most successful at being copied and spread become the most common in society.

Internet memes, as they are now known, are popular culture units that are distributed, mimicked, and altered by users.

Limor Shifman, a leading expert on online memes, claims that a meme is a collection of objects generated with knowledge of one another, rather than a single concept or picture that spreads throughout social media.

The famous Grumpy Cat meme, for example, is not the cat himself, but the entire series of memes created using his picture.

Along with the explosion of pet photographs posted online, new types of memes developed in the second part of the nineties.

Advice Dog, LOLCats, and Grumpy Cat are all well-known examples. Animals with human qualities have always been a part of human culture, from ancient Egyptian gods to children's fables like Peter Rabbit, so it is no surprise that they have been resurrected as memes in the digital age.

Celebrities and everyday people appeared in memes starting in the late 1990s. Charlie Bit My Finger, Kanye Interrupts, Leave Britney Alone and Cash Me Ousside/How Bah Dah are just a few examples.

These memes were all inspired by a news story or a viral video, which were parodied, copied, remixed, and mashed up by creative internet users.

People also use memes to promote specific political beliefs or concepts. For example, the alt-right hijacked Pepe the Frog from the comic book Boy's Club, turning him into a racist icon before being killed off by his creator Matt Furie.


Memetics is the study of information and culture that is based on a Darwinian evolutionary analogy. Memetics is a term used by proponents to define an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transmission.

Memetics shows how an idea spreads successfully, but it does not show that a notion is true. The hypothesis is "untested, unsupported, or wrong," according to critics. Many academics have labeled Memetics as pseudoscience, preventing it from becoming a recognized research program.

The current memetics movement began in the mid-eighties (a January 1983 Metamagical Themas column by Douglas Hofstadter in Scientific American was influential). The research varies from conventional cultural evolutionary theory in that its practitioners are typically not academics and come from areas other than anthropology and sociology.

Others who wanted to cling to Dawkins' concept of a meme as "a unit of information in the brain" and those who sought to redefine it as visible cultural artifacts and behaviors divided the memetics movement almost immediately. The "internalists" and "externalists" were the names given to these two schools.

Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission ceased publishing in 2005, and a collection of 'obituaries' for memetics was released in its place.

This was not meant to imply that no further work on memetics can be done, but that memetics' exciting youth, which began in 1996, is ending, and that memetics will have to survive or perish in terms of the outcomes it can produce for the area of cultural evolution.

Memetics is a popular scientific movement powered by social media and the Internet is most likely finished. Many of the early supporters have abandoned it. Both Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have voiced doubts about its applicability.

Simply said, memetics is a way of scientifically analyzing cultural development. Proponents of memetics, as stated in the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission, think that 'memetics' has the potential to be a significant and productive cultural study based on evolutionary ideas.

In his book Memetics and the Modular-Mind, Keith Henson argues that to comprehend the psychological features of a meme's host, memetics must include evolutionary psychology. This is especially true of host features that change over time, such as those that lead to conflicts.


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