A short history of memes and why we love them in finance
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But a picture with a joke? Maybe a thousand shares – or more.
Internet memes – iconic pictures captioned with something cutting, funny and generally current – are a democratic way of encapsulating the zeitgeist in a single image. Multiple users add to the joke and share it, evolving the theme along the way. In short, memes are bite-sized, easily-digestible nuggets of information shared among a group of Internet users.
In "Makes a Meme Instead: A Concise History of Internet Memes," Linda K. Börzsei of Utrecht University says that the first noted instance of a meme was an smiley face emoticon used on Sept. 19, 1982, by Scott E. Fahlman on the internet's precursor. This quickly spread through online communities, and expanded to convey other thoughts such as "sad" [ :-( ], "Elvis Presley" [5:-) ] and "Wile E. Coyote under a rock" [___________].
As the Internet evolved, so did memes. Today, the combination of simple photo-editing software, social media sharing, near-real-time news distribution and access to images can make it easy for anyone with an idea (but zero design skills) to contribute through sites like imgflip.com and makeameme.org.
Börzsei uses the 2009 "Kanye Interrupts" as a prime example of a viral meme, when Kanye West grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift during her acceptance remarks at the MTV Video Music Awards and announced that Beyoncé should have won. She cites Clay Shirky's "cognitive surplus" theory–the byproduct of an educated population with free time on its hands. "In the chaotic, dynamical media space, cognitive surplus can be a useful asset in processing the large amounts of information fired at the population at all times," Börzsei writes. "Memes show that, even if at a low level, even if just for the sake of a joke, more and more people are engaging with the news and what is happening around them, and trying to make sense of it all."
Perhaps you're wondering what memes have to do with banking. Money is serious business, and memes help us laugh about serious topics. They can be an excellent tool, like a digital version of a sticky note on the bathroom mirror to be stored and shared as digital reminders. Here are our favorite money memes that make us laugh and encourage us to maintain sound financial habits.
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