Internet Memes: The New Culture in an Undefined Age

Internet Memes: The New Culture in an Undefined Age

grumpy 1

Many say we are living in the Technology age – obsessed wit h the newest gadgets and our Facebook news feed. Others would say the current generation is living in the Microwave Age – if it takes you longer than 30 seconds – “ain’t nobody got time for that”. I say we are living in the ___________ Age. There is no point in defining it because it will change by the time I finish writing this.

Even the internet tells me I’m two months too late – Grumpy Cat peaked in March and now my topic is outdated.

But the internet is a beautiful thing – we have an endless access to information – accurate and inaccurate but who cares?  But while on the internet, the masses are now the cultural producers, setting trends, deciding what is in and what is out. No more are artists, writers, designers, or celebrities the ones who are determining what we are talking about. The average person now has power to create trends – the power (of pop culture at least) is in the hands of the masses.

What used to be just part of a sub-culture of nerds who spent the majority of their days on message boards has now become wildly popular. Grumpy Cat has made its rounds on the media circuit – interviews with Anderson Cooper and articles in People Magazine – and has now become a household name. Even your parents, who don’t understand what internet memes are, know and refer to Grumpy Cat in conversations about work and traffic. He is on t-shirts and mugs that you can buy off the internet to tell others “Yes, I’m in the know, I’m hip” and “Yes, I’m just as grumpy as Grumpy Cat without my morning cup of coffee”.

We can all identify with Grumpy Cat – not because we are grumpy on Monday mornings but because we all own the image and what he represents. While websites try to pinpoint origins of internet memes, their creation is ambiguous and unimportant. Everyone created him – hundreds of people have had a hand in producing newer and funnier memes to go with the image. Jokes and ideas have been passed down from person to person and the image has transformed from just a silly picture of a cat to a piece of pop culture. But creating is not the only way in owning – imitation, reposting, referencing – through our interaction these memes continue to live on and evolve. It becomes a collaborative effort.

You may be thinking “If a very annoyed looking cat represents America, then we must be pretty dumb.” I beg to differ.

The internet has become an equalizer – anyone and everyone has a voice, a platform. We can create pointless jokes about our everyday lives or express your opinion on important issues through memes. Is it a stretch to say that internet memes represents democracy? Maybe. But everyone can have a voice on the internet.

The way in which we build cultural trends through a collective effort shows what American culture is all about – we are a nation of many ideas, beliefs, and cultures that can all come together to create something new, exciting.

Although Grumpy Cat is so five minutes ago, its rise and fall represents an evolution of America – nothing is fixed. We are always changing – minute to minute, day by day. That is the only way in which America, the melting pot, can be articulated – as ever-changing and always searching to redefine itself to be all inclusive.

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2 Responses to Internet Memes: The New Culture in an Undefined Age

  1. Brittany says:

    The images I chose to write my manifesto on are of the internet meme “Grumpy Cat”. Each image pictures the same cat in different positions with different corresponding text. The image is very simplistic: it is of one particular cat and his grumpy expression. The cat looks as if he is grimacing which gives an overall despondent look on his face. The text that borders the picture differs from each image but it echoes the same cranky attitude that is on the cat’s face. The viewer of the image is supposed to read the text as if it was spoken in the cat’s voice.
    The images of “Grumpy Cat” are considered internet memes. The definition of a meme is “a cultural unit that spreads from person to person through copy or imitation” (JennyDavis). This includes ideas, beliefs, customs, humor, jokes, and rituals. The most important aspect of memes is that they are disseminated from interaction of people. Since the early 2000s, memes have segued into the internet and have become a cultural phenomenon. A meme has transformed from just an idea to a piece of visual pop culture: they include images, videos, gifs, or hash tags. Similarly, internet memes are distributed on the internet for all to view, imitate, add, recreate, and repost.
    According to Know Your Meme, a website that tracks and documents internet memes and other internet cultural phenomenon, the original image of Grumpy Cat meme came from a user of a popular internet message board who posted a picture of their annoyed-looking cat in September 2012 (Amanda B.). Since then, the image has been recreated, rethought, and reposted numerous times by numerous different internet users. Every time a user creates or reposts an internet meme with the Grumpy Cat image, they are contributing to internet and American pop culture.
    I chose these images of Grumpy Cat because it has become one of the most popular and well-known meme and has become a household term in the matter of months. In my manifesto, I wanted to focus on the impact of memes in American culture, discuss their recent shift from a sub-culture to the dominate culture, and question whether the creation of memes are representative of American culture. I chose three different images of Grumpy Cat to show how memes are ever-changing and collaborative pieces of pop culture which make them unique and intriguing to many.
    My choice of image and manifesto was influenced by Andy Warhol’s America and Kirsten Silva Gruesz’s “America”. I found a connection between Warhol’s belief that the artist is unimportant to the anonymity of the creators of internet memes (Thom 6). Instead of memes becoming the product of just one person, they become a product of any and all who use, repost, and identify with them. In Gruesz’s America, she raises the questions: “Who gets to define what ‘America’ means?” (17). In my manifesto, I wanted to explore this idea and explain that through participation of creating and reproducing memes, the masses has the opportunity to define what American pop culture is.

  2. ljdoherty says:

    It’s always interesting to read what people think about our Internet culture. Its so new and ever-evolving that I find those who try put a single definition to it are rather ill-informed in the culture. You don’t do this however and instead discuss it as a constantly evolving culture filled with fleeting trends and things going out of popularity as fast as the came in. Its a really good metaphor for the “melting pot” which is America. There is no one America not only because of its size and diversity, but also due to the constantly changing of the culture. It seems like yesterday that the iPhone was released and it quickly became the number 1 wanted phone. The iPhone came out only as far back as 2007 and so the rate of popularity increase was ridiculous. This past year however things are starting to change. iPhone profits are going down and Android phones are slowly becoming the most popular type of smartphone. I was just researching and saw an article on Brighthand.com (a technology review website) of the most viewed phones on their website over the past 5 days. iPhone is only the eighth highest. This demonstrates very well your argument of America as constantly changing because it happens all over America in every aspect as well as memes and smartphones. I think therefore that you brought up some really interesting points with your manifesto and were able to bring to light a less apparent, and yet very influential, aspect of American culture.

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