Whether you “Ermahgerd”, “I can’t even”, “be like Bill” or preach “Success” with a sand-filled fist, in the world of social media it’s hard to deny that the Meme has become as much a part of modern language as the emoji. But its origins precede a world of tweets, shares and upvotes, and this weekend came a reminder of why.
The Meme, a history lesson
Ask anybody what they consider a meme, and most people will provide an answer that includes the word “share”, “picture”, “social” and probably “Internet”. But whilst the Meme has emerged as a symbol of social ‘virality’, the meme as a concept finds its origins long before the Internet provided it with its perfect vessel for growth.
Richard Dawkins defined the phrase in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene in an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads. Mike Godwin (of Godwin’s Law notoriety) then wrote of the concept of an Internet meme in 1993 in technology publication Wired in relation to message boards and online communities.
But that’s just the definition; in order to be defined, a concept has to exist in the first place. In the book The Social Organism, Oliver Luckett and Michael Casey present one of the earliest memes - and one that still runs today - as being that of the Watergate scandal. Despite the fact that 'Watergate' was merely the name of the building in which the scandal occurred, the press turned it into such an iconic phrase that almost all major incidents, scandalous or otherwise, are now renamed with the “gate” suffix in homage.
The memes we know of on the Internet today are a continuation of this concept, supercharged through the viral networks created by social media.
A Meme but not as you know it
Every generation has their stars - those of screen and stage that encapsulate a moment in time. And when it comes to comedy these often come with punchlines or catchphrases that reverberate around the school yards, workplaces and homes of the country.
Most are fleeting, burning bright for a brief moment in time, before fizzing out never to be uttered again. Others, live long in the memory and define a generation.
Over the weekend a legend of 80s and 90s comedy sadly passed away. Barry Chuckle, one half of the Chuckle Brothers, breathed his last breath at the age of 73.
And for those fortunate to have grown up during this period, to this day every time you have found yourself at the end of a piece of furniture, trying to manoeuvre it into position, you will have undoubtedly uttered the immortal words, “to me” followed by an inevitable reply from the other end, “to you”.
The definition of a meme
If the definition of a meme is a concept, phrase or image (often humorous) passed from one person to another, then “to me, to you” surely fits that bill. To me, to you is a meme that’s passed the test of time and despite one of its creators sadly passing, should be celebrated as so.
RIP Barry Chuckle, a social media pioneer, from the days before it even existed.