If a Meme Makes A Sound, Does Anyone Hear It?


If you shoot at mimes, should you use a silencer? ~Steven Wright

Which came first, the T-rex or the egg?

Up until a few years ago, I thought a “meme” was either a creative spelling for “Mimi” or a mime that wasn’t spelled properly at all. I’m slow to catch on to most social zeitgeist trends out of choice and because I’m slowly turning into one of those old curmudgeons my parents are now. I’m nearly tragically unhip, though I do maintain presences on Facebook and WordPress (though not Twitter; I refuse to go down that road.)

Memes were like warehouses used to host all-nighter Ecstasy parties. I’d heard others whisper about them in hushed tones, never really understanding what I was hearing. It was the same sort of mixed awe and curiousity I felt towards iPods when they first came out. Finally, to educate myself, I decided to ask a Gen Y confidante to explain to me just what the hell a “meme” was.

“Oh,” she said, as if humoring a mentally challenged child. “They’re, like, search engine terms. Like when you type in the first few letters on Google, and it fills it in for you?”

I understood immediately. I found the following illustration to be helpful, as I’m more of a visual learner:

I always thought the dancing hamsters were annoying

I think memes probably work much the same way mutated viruses do. If any readers have seen the TV commercial that begins with a search engine query and ends in a colossal food fight, you’ll know what I mean. They start out innocuously, in some dark forgotten corner of cyberspace, then some go viral. Others die off or are left behind in the ever-evolving world that is the internet. Information Age Darwinism, I suppose. (Consider that over 90 percent of the life forms that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct, and this is no surprise. Do any of us go to the same websites we visited in 2005? If we do, are they even recognizable?)

Reminds me of high school

When the Net was first born, and I was a much younger woman, there was no Facebook, no Amazon.com, no Youtube. Pictures took minutes to upload, not microseconds. If you wanted to YIM with your friends, you had to wait for Mom to get off the phone so you could use the dial-up connection. I could write an entire post just on the once-vaunted technology of dial-up Internet.

Whenever I Google myself or P&Q, I’m always amused at the memes that come up. Usually it’ll be recipes for prawns that involve quartering…original, I know. Occasionally it’ll be something connected to something I wrote in the past, or a picture I’ve used. On that same note, I like to look at the search engine memes that brought readers to P&Q. It can be something fairly innocent like “leopard” or “pictures of Inigo Montoya,” but I’ve also found non sequiturs like “Communist tattoos” or “aliens landing on farmhouse.” When I stop and scratch my head, I realize these must be combinations of words I’ve used in various blog posts. How strange. Then again, P&Q is nothing else if not strange.

One large meme with extra prawns, please

Internet memes, like the common cold and influenza, are constantly changing in ways not one of us can foresee or predict. Now that I’m in the loop as to what they actually are, I feel slightly more hip and slightly less Generation X. My hopes remain threefold:

1) that I draw more readers to Prawn and Quartered by blogging on timely and interesting topics,

2) that readers find the blog interesting enough to keep coming back for more, and

3) that one day, my grandchildren, should I have any, don’t ask me “Grandma, what’s a meme?”

Enjoyed this post? Be sure to click “Like,” pass the memes, and subscribe to P&Q!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on March 28, 2011.

2 Responses to “If a Meme Makes A Sound, Does Anyone Hear It?”

  1. I’m still not sure I really know what a meme is, but I don’t remember ever hearing about one until reading this blog!

  2. Thanks for the like on the Araboolies. It’s a great book. This post was really helpful – it was listed under your comment on my post- still worthwhile more than a year later!

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