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MEME generation: a semi - serious phenomenology

Let’s investigate the most captivating and effective form of communication that exists today.

By Alessandra Nava

A few years ago I attended a dear friend’s degree, not only because I wanted to support her during such an important step of her life, but also because saying that I was really curious about her essay would be reductive. She presented a brilliant research about memes.  Where did they come from? When where they born? How do they work? But most of all, what are those? (Needless to say her essay was a 10/10).

My dear friend hasn’t been the only one out there asking herself what is a meme, and struggling to learn more about its origins. I’m not going to talk about the historical, nor social and philosophical implications of the meme culture. However, I can fiercely state, from the very deep of my heart, that memes are the easiest and most catchy means of communication currently existing.

Being a Gen Z representative, of course I use them everyday. My DMs, my Whatsapp chats, my photo gallery, my YouTube playlist, my Facebook feed, they’re all inhabited by memes.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da Memes.com (@memes)

In the beginning, it was Doge, that funny little Shiba dog that was used by millions of teenagers to express their mixed feeling of depression or consternation. Before him, there was actually a ‘10s B&W wave with characters such as the troll face, the big sad one, and there were also Jackie Chan and Nicholas Cage.

Since those days, memes literally thrived. The Spider Men pointing at each other, Spongebob and Patrick and Squiddy, Thanos with his big glove, Drake vining to his hit “Hotline Bling”, Baby Yoda, Pikachu, … this list is potentially never-ending. I need to mention one of the latest most successful ones, starring Brittany Broski, who went from being an average American girl making TikToks to a worldwide phenomenon and the very recent, hilarious meme case of Bernie Sanders dozing on a chair during Inauguration Day.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da Memes.com (@memes)

Kim Kardashian herself, as the good she wolf of not only Wall Street, but of the entire Internet’s finance, rode the self-ironical meme wave. When a picture of her, crying desperately during a KUWTK episode, went viral as a meme, she made the most out of it, making it an emoji and a series of stickers purchasable on her app.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da KIMOJI (@kimoji)

Even GCDS, designed by the young talented Giuliano Calza, stated its love for memes through a gigantic billboard that quoted “Meme is my culture”, bonding with its very young customers.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da Lilly Keys 🗝 (@lilly_keys)

The chaotic, nonsense and sometimes cryptical world of memes happens to be pretty hard to understand for the non-digital natives. How many times did you find yourself trying to explain to one of your relatives, older colleagues or acquaintances what that meme’s about? And with which level of frustration? Memes’ magical effectiveness resides in their apparent absence of a logical explanation: they’re both very accessible and easy to understand, but also filled up with silent implications that are probably known by young generations only.

How to make clear that this picture of Lisa Simpson giving a school presentation perfectly embraces a Virgo’s perfectionist attitude? (Which will also lead to the need to explain the astrology meme wave). How to tell your grandma that this picture of Kermit being revived on a hospital bed perfectly embodies my inner self anytime Harry Styles posts a picture?

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da Memes.com (@memes)

Perhaps, these images’ mysterious recipe, that come from so many different contexts (anime, cartoons, Vines, movies, …), resides in their very heterogeneous and global essence. These photos, that are often not even in high quality. These are pictures you can feel. They’re able to express emotional feelings and states of mind, whether they’re bittersweet or euphoric. And they’re highly relatable.

The melted clown cake meme resembles me every time I give a chance to a guy and I end up being deluded. The Mr. Krab panicking meme is me any time I see a slide with numbers and graphics during meetings. The tiny dog drinking love juice is me when I think about my beloved best friend.

What keeps it all together, as a fil rouge, is memes’ irresistible irony. Our generation deals with anxiety about the future, and how to deal with job, climate change, building a family, … We’re bound to an uncertain tomorrow, and we all feel major responsibility, and at the same time we can’t do much but stay inside and wear masks. Memes are a powerful way to cope with such important issues, being a refreshing fun parenthesis that might help us to go through this. We might be able to save the world, one meme at a time.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da Memes.com (@memes)