Anybody with a Twitter or Facebook account is practically bathing in memes all day, whether they like it or not, so we all know a meme when we see it. But if this video is any indication, we have no idea how to explain it.
Comedy writer/director Alex J. Mann was inspired to shoot “What’s a Meme?” when the topic came up during a holiday meal. He was asked to explain what a meme is, and couldn’t do it.
“I grew up with the Internet and spend all my time on the Internet, and I still had trouble,” he said in an email. “It’s a difficult thing to describe, much easier to label.”
So he took to the streets, armed with a video camera, to ask people all over New York how they define the word meme:
“Dog sex could be a meme.”
“Basically, it’s like a flipbook.”
“Somebody punched their own butt.”
“A meme is a sarcastic way to describe a scenario that typically will be uncomfortable.” Points for specificity, but WTF are you talking about?
Mr. Mann’s preferred definition actually pops up in the video. The word meme, one of his victims explains, was invented by Richard Dawkins in the book The Selfish Gene. Mr. Dawkins defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”
Okay, sure, but we prefer the highly scientific definition provided by another guy in the video: “It’s something that gets really popular on the Internet.”