Meme Culture: What Is It?

Memes are widely used by the youths of the 21st century, but many people may not understand what a ‘meme’ is or what ‘meme culture’ means.

By Michelle, London · March 20, 2019


Pic: Pexels Creative Commons /

In this article, I’ll be breaking down this massively popular concept.

What is a ‘meme’?

One of the many definitions of the word ‘meme’ is: ‘a unit of cultural information spread by imitation’. The term ‘meme’ was introduced in 1976 by the famous British biologist Richard Dawkins. You can recognise a meme because they often consist of a picture – normally derived from pop culture such as cartoons and viral videos – followed by a caption above the picture which references ‘relatable’ scenarios or even something related to any relevant social, economic, and political news. Memes are most commonly transmitted via the Internet, especially on social media, and their aim is to entertain, which has sparked the term ‘meme culture’.



So what exactly is meme culture and what does it involve?

Meme culture is the evolving culture created by memes. Initially, memes were an aspect of the internet that people would stumble upon from time to time, find themselves amused, and send to someone else for their enjoyment. However, memes have now become such a common part of people’s social media lives that they are often quoted outside of the internet, with people finding ways to incorporate memes into any and every conversation.



How has meme culture spread beyond its original demographics – the youths of this generation?

To generations such as Millennials and Generation Z, the concept of online communities across various different platforms on the Internet is not foreign to them. These generations are also aware of the spreading of memes beyond their own demographics: older generations have also jumped onto spreading memes. Simply by looking at social media platforms like Facebook, one can immediately recognise the use of memes by older generations. The reason why many people of different generations are able to understand memes is that anyone can make one – this means people can make memes with different target demographics, therefore memes can reach people of all ages.



What is the public opinion on memes?

Some argue that memes are normally very positively received by people – a prime example of this is the growth of ‘meme pages’ on social media, where people post memes on a designated meme account. These pages gain massive followings, and are very successful, with some even serving as a primary or secondary source of income for the administrators of these pages due to the money they receive from promotions and advertisements. Memes are criticised at times though, as there are countless memes that can be considered as ‘dark humour’ and can often be very offensive to certain audiences. There are also some scientific controversies surrounding memes.



Overall, meme culture has become a very big part of Internet culture as a whole and although people won’t always like the content of some memes, they continue to globally entertain audiences of various ages.