The internet has forever changed the way human beings communicate with one another. We can chat with someone across the world, send mail that arrives much quicker and saves paper, and even live stream video from our fingertips.
One of the most important cultural developments than was born on the internet is the meme. These seemingly simple images are so significant that even Stanford has studied them.
Memes are funny and lighthearted, but also serious and political. Sometimes there’s no underlying message, but most of the time there is.
If you love memes, or if you want to learn more about memes, check out these intriguing facts about the history of memes.
What Is a Meme?
Memes are extremely difficult to define. Essentially, they are images, gifs, or text that convey humor, ideas, or opinions. Even with the serious subject matter, they almost always convey humor.
Most people think memes are a modern-day phenomenon, but that’s not entirely true. Some meme scholars consider an ancient palindrome called the “Sator Square” to be one of the oldest known memes in history.
A palindrome is a message that can be read forward, backward, up, and down. The message is written in Latin, but most scholars agree that it talks about a farmer working.
Early forms of memes have also appeared at other times in history. “Frodo Lives” is a good example of that. This IRL meme involved a “Frodo Lives” text that was reproduced in graffiti, on buttons, and on bumper stickers.
Some scholars compare modern memes to cultural effects like folklore and customs. These songs, stories, dances, recipes, and other items are repeated to thousands over time, having the same function as modern-day memes
Coined in 1976
Today’s meme lovers will be surprised to learn that the term “meme” was coined in 1976 by Ricard Dawkins. The term “mimeme” describes how organisms can spread and mutate. This is exactly what memes do – they are living documents that are changed and shared by internet users.
The First Meme
Most meme scholars agree that the first meme appeared in 1996 — the dancing baby.
If you were a participant in internet history, you know exactly what this is. It was a gif of a digitally created dancing baby that was shared around the internet. It even appeared on the TV show Ally McBeal.
In the 2000s, memes really took off, and they became what they are today. Memes like “All your base are belong to us” spread across forums like wildfire.
Once social media website were created, memes spread to them as well. Then, memes were shared by even more people than before. Social media sites brought together the laymen and the noobs of the internet. Memes became the language of the common man.
Now, anyone can make a meme with programs like Adobe Spark Post.
The Best Memes
The history of memes is a rich history concerning the development of internet culture. People around the world can contribute, created a culture that transcends distance.
The next time you’re enjoying memes, remember that you are participating in a significant part of internet history.