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Memes Help Keep Internet Interesting

March 22, 2008

Part of the allure of the Internet is the way seemingly obscure photos, videos and Web pages gain momentum and begin to invade pop culture. Before the advent of sites such as YouTube and Flickr, these Internet memes clogged our e-mail inboxes. Now they’re also on blogs, prime-time television and nightly newscasts.

Last year’s most notable meme was Chris Crocker’s infamous “Leave Britney Alone” video. Even today, people make references to the video.

Another began circulating last year based on actor Chuck Norris and fictitious claims about his abilities (“Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer. Too bad Chuck Norris has never cried.”). Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee picked up on the phenomenon and released a campaign commercial that featured Norris himself.

Memes are created daily – some intentionally, others not. Companies try to create their own memes and viral videos in hopes of getting their name in front of millions of eyeballs with little financial investment. Others happen by accident.

One of the more popular memes over the past few months is the Lolcats phenomenon. Lolcat photos are spread over Weblogs and message boards and feature a photograph of a cat with a broken, misspelled phrase beneath it – such as a picture of a cat tucked inside a woman’s purse, tagged with “Watz in ur wallet,” an altered version of the Capital One catchphrase.

Many of the photos are hosted on the popular icanhascheezburger.com Web site, which also allows visitors to create their own Lolcat photos.

Similar to Lolcats is the FAIL meme. FAIL photos have a picture of a person or an animal in a compromising situation and tagged with one word: FAIL. Some of the more popular photos feature people captured in mid-tumble off a bicycle or a woman trying to snap a photo with the lens cover still on.

The FAIL blog (failblog.wordpress.com) is updated several times a week with new photos contributed by readers and offers its own apparel line.

By far the oddest of the recent Internet memes is the concept of “rolling,” or having a person link to a supposedly legitimate Web site relevant to the discussion, but instead forwarding the person to a photo or video. The most popular version of rolling is “Rickrolling,” where the link a user clicks redirects to a page that shows the music video for Rick Astley’s 1980s hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Why Astley’s video was chosen to be the root of the meme is anyone’s guess.




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