Memes of the decade: an overview

Lucy Cho, Sarah Boeke, Features Editor, Opinions Editor

After creating a meme for an assignment in her Advanced Placement United States History class, junior Annie Welch decided to make her own meme account on Instagram to post history-related memes.

“I think [memes are] really funny ways to bond with other people,” said Welch. “And I think that especially as teenagers now, it’s really easy to communicate and have a sense of humor when it comes to memes [they connect] people.”

According to Ryan Milner, author of “The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media,” memes are a form of media that convey a certain idea. These ideas are then exchanged between people, changing as they spread.

“The concept of a meme is bigger than internet memes,” said Milner. “Anything from jokes, to urban legends, to trends and fashion — those are all memes in a cultural sense. And then internet memes are kind of the internet version of that, where a joke, or a trend, or a fad will spread between people who comment on it and remix it and make it their own as they then send it out to new people.”

Milner began to study internet culture and internet memes in 2010. According to Milner, memes at the beginning of this decade were less prevalent and remained unchanged, only appearing on a few websites like 4chan and Tumblr. As the decade progressed, more people on different sites like Facebook and Instagram started to share and make variations of different memes.

“TikTok is the epicenter of memes now,” Milner said.

TikTok, a video-making app, allows users to use audio from others’ videos to make their own videos. TikTok users can take an original idea and build from it, like they can with traditional, image-based memes.

“Things now are less confined to a few small sites and they’re less confined to just images or texts,” Milner said.

According to Milner, memes are significant because they change and reflect what individuals, and society in general, are thinking and feeling. As a result, Milner said there is definitely a connection between changes in society and trends in memes.

“People are going to be commenting on and sharing what connects with them, and what connects with them are important personal issues, important social issues, important political issues,” said Milner. “You get a real mirror into what they’re thinking about, what they’re considering, how they think about things, how they feel things.”