I hope you’ll permit me to rant at you for a moment. I hate memes. I would like to see the Internet purged of them. I can happily tolerate a lolcat and have been known to actively look for the occasional fail, but I absolutely detest memes.
The reason for my hatred is simple. I think they are a really lazy and unimaginative form of humour. I am a fairly regular stand up comedian and I devote quite a lot of thought and hard work to creating new and funny material. My real problem with memes is they are so formulaic and, after reading them once or twice, become infuriatingly predictable. If original humour is being replaced by tired old clichés, I don’t want to live on this planet any more.
The continual use of the same joke is interesting because – in theory – repetition is an excellent tool for writing comedy. The “rule of threes”, which suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers, is one of the standard building blocks of comedy. It is very easy to spot when you look for it. It’s rule of three, rule of three everywhere.
There is also the idea of reincorporation: returning to an old joke and repeating part of it, making your audience laugh in recollection. But the thing is you don’t repeat the joke exactly, you repeat an element of it, be that the set up or the punch line. Effectively you find a different way of telling the same joke. Memes tell the same joke with the same set up. True story.
So next time you are procrastinating online, remember that by liking, following or even looking at memes; you are effectively slamming your face into a computer screen, chanting “Again Again” as though you are trying to summon a demonic teletubby.
The bottom line: memes have the potential to end independent thought and must be ignored at all costs. Just ask yourself, what if memes are really jokes that failed?