What Is a Meme?

What Is a Meme?

January 5, 2011 |  by

Memes are the DNA of society. From Internet trends to mass advertising to political parties, they shape the world we live in. A meme is the culture of a group – its values, influence and agenda. It’s the “mood” of our workplaces, our social and spiritual communities, our media outlets and favorite sports teams. Wherever there’s a group, there’s a meme – a unique feeling that defines the group. You can’t see the meme, but you can definitely feel it.

Take Wikipedia. It’s a group of editors and users. Its meme is all about collaboration and usefulness. Its influence? An irresistible urge to learn. Its agenda is a big one: the opening of knowledge to all people.

Memes help you relate to groups you belong to, whether family or community or country. At the same time, memes can limit you if you aren’t aware of their influence. We call this following the herd, mass mind or groupthink. Understanding memes helps you find a balance between your place in society and expressing yourself as an individual.

We can define a meme as the characteristics, influence and agenda of a group, independent of its members. Why “independent of its members? It just means that memes have a life of their own. You can almost imagine a meme as a group person – with its own ideas, habits and goals. It’s as if the collective values of the group members had given birth to a person. That may sound strange, but in reality, that’s how memes act.

In summary, the main points of memes:

  • memes are the DNA of society
  • memes are the cultures of groups
  • memes have unique values, beliefs, influences and agendas
  • memes are present in everything from global ideologies to religions, corporate cultures, social networks, communities and families
  • memes are like a group person – they have a life of their own
  • unconscious alignment with a meme is called following the herd, mass mind or groupthink
  • understanding memes helps us balance social and individual impulses

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