Theory of memes – 1 – What is a “meme” ?

Well, this is very awkward. This is really off the topic article (or a set of articles) regarding one of my obsessions, “memes”. The main reason I’m writing these is that, sometimes I spend hard time explaining memes to my GF. And it would have been awesome to laugh at some images. (well that sounds creepy). I hope this would be beneficial for all other people as well.

“Meme is a is an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person” – Wikipedia.

“The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, as an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads” – Wikipedia

(“Meme” is pronounced as “meem” (/ˈmm/ ), not as “me-me” )

The main idea of memes is to use symbols or symbolic images to convey and share an idea with people. These memes are very much popular in social media nowadays and have even become a medium of communication. These are very much similar to the symbols we see everyday. Road signs, religious symbols, universal gestures etc. are hardly carved into our brains so that we recognize them easily along with it’s context. However, memes are a whole new level of symbols that are not universal (of course), but used by groups of people to express ideas.

Internet memes are extracted mostly from scenes from movies, cartoons, teledramas, celebrity snaps, news or even random images. These images are used to represent a particular type of people, scenarios, feelings etc. as that meme symbolizes that particular details of those things. (I will provide examples later.)

Well, I’m not trying to fill you up with all the theories behind these memes.

Spoiler alert : Go to for lots and lots of memes.

There are several types of internet memes. (This is my personal categorization. Sorry if I’m wrong)

  • Rage Comics
  • Memes
  • GIFs
  • One-time (This may become a 1st type of a meme, if that is good enough)

Rage Comics

These are series of web comics with characters, sometimes referred to as “rage faces”, that are often created with simple drawing software such as MS Paint. However, there are some faces derived from the faces of celebrities as well.

Each of the faces represents an emotion, feeling or a situation which everybody would face. This is considered as more common way of illustration a story.

Let’s take a sample story.


Most of the people are familiar with these rage faces such as “Bitch Please”, “True Story” and “If you know what I mean” and there is more. We will talk about them later.

We will discuss about each of these rage faces in the next articles.


These represented along with an image (or a series of images), which symbolizes the features of the scenario. Most of them even have names to identify them. These memes are mostly related with a scenario (description) and this tries to emphasis a fact of that. And then the image have a top line and a bottom line, which mostly is a catchy phrase. (Sometimes the bottom line is not available for some memes). Let’s take an example.

The name of this meme is “The Most Interesting Man in the World”. The templates of this meme is “I don’t always X. But when I do, Y”. This symbolizes something you rarely do, but whenever you do it, something special (mostly a negatively affected) happens.

Let’s take another example. Here is “Scumbag Steve”.

As the name says, this is used when someone does something very “scumbag-ish”. This reflects unreliable people in our society. The hat Steve is wearing, called “Scumbag Hat”, is used on other people (or things) to mark them as “scumbags”.

Following is called “First World Problems”. The idea is to show the problems first world citizens faces, which are actually not problems at all. These have transited from first world to more like the problems of “people who have what they want, but still whines”.



These are small videos clips, converted to GIF (Graphical Interchange Format) (since uploading it as a video costs a lot). Some of these GIFs are also used as meme itself.

See the following example.

Libby the Llama –


This Llama is called “Libby the Llama”, and used when you hear something surprising (mostly with not agreeing state).


These are not so called memes, but have the enough potential of being one. Most of the current memes came into the internet to this entry level. This is an example, which still not had become a meme.

pregnency test

I think I don’t need to explain that. If you really don’t know what that girl is holding, that is a pregnancy tester.

The following one is called “Baby Insanity Wolf”, which once was in the entry level, and now is a meme.


This is used when doing small harsh thing to show your disapproval.

These are the four main types of Internet memes we can see. Many people are familiar with Rage Comics, but less familiar with “Memes”. I will explain those in the future articles.

02 comments on “Theory of memes – 1 – What is a “meme” ?

  • Praneeth Nilanga Peiris , Direct link to comment

    First of all, thanks for reading this. 😀
    Yeah, you and me know these. But many people don’t. Most of the people only know about rage comics and I have seen plenty of them misused. So, this is for “that” audience. 😀

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