You Don’t Choose the Meme Life, It Chooses You

Written by 11:42 am Digital Focus

The internet tends to be a place where true identities go to die, and a picture tells a thousand lies. Enter the Meme.

The internet tends to be a place where true identities go to die, and a picture tells a thousand lies. Enter the Meme.

Whether you like them or not (or more rightly, get them or not), memes own the internet, and in turn, feature on our timelines more than pictures of our own families. But what catapults a picture to meme status?

What is a Meme?

Before we can go any further, I’d better take a side step here and quickly explain the meme concept to anyone struggling with it. Coined by Richard Dawkins, a meme is basically an idea or behaviour that is passed through a culture by non-genetic means. For the internet culture’s purposes, a meme is typically one of two things – either a picture that is used to build a persona around, or a visual that begs to be mimicked.

Memes can appear in all shapes and sizes, but an ultimate by-product is that the original person behind the meme will become nothing more than their new meme persona. We often don’t know, or even want to know, the back story to our favourite memes – because then these pictures will become real people, and not the imaginary internet superheroes or villains we have made them.

You never know when the internet will strike

The weirdest, and often inexplicable things can become wildfire memes. A good example of this is the recent #Alexfromtarget trend in America. This one hit early this week and has been fuelled by the hormone-driven teens of America.

It was started on Sunday by one single picture being posted of a Target employee, Alex on Twitter.

Seems a harmless enough picture, right? Well #AlexfromTarget soon captured the hearts and twitterstreams of many.

And as much notoriety Alex is getting, Target is getting by association. Brands can’t buy this type of good sentiment! Imagine how happy Target was to wake up on Monday to the fact that they were trending (after quickly checking that it was for a good reason of course)?

We’ll see how far #AlexfromTarget gets with his internet fame, as that is another side of the coin – some memes like Success Kid stick around for years, but others are a flash in the hormone filled, teen craze pan.


South Africa is also experiencing our own little meme outbreak at the moment. It’s not often that we are not only grabbing onto a craze, but creating it. If you pay attention to the news then you know the tragic news about Senzo Meyiwa, Goalkeeper for Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates.

If you are on Twitter you may have also noticed the top trend for the days since Senzo’s funeral – #NotSenzosDad. This is a trend that was started by this picture, snapped at the funeral by photographer Alon Skuy.

The picture was an instant hit with fans of the late goalkeeper, tired of mourning and ready to rather celebrate the talented man’s life. What happened next has taken South African twitter feeds by storm.

The popularity of this picture illustrates a very important element behind any meme – it’s all about the emotion. A visual becomes a meme because of how it grabs it’s audience. Interestingly #NotSenzosDad became larger than the original image…it’s as if it was simply telling people it was ok to be happy again.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Last modified: March 8, 2020