Someone complained about my calling “Poor, misunderstood Discord” a meme, indicating that I was somehow trivializing it by saying it’s “just a meme.” Apparently, in their mind, meme means “funny cat picture” or “weird video.” Well, let’s look at what it actually means.
Wikipedia: “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”
Urban Dictionary (culling selectively, because, well, it’s Urban Dictionary): ” (noun)
1 : an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)
2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable
3 : the fundamental unit of information, analogous to the gene in emerging evolutionary theory of culture
- meme pool (n.) : all memes of a culture or individual
- memetic (adj.) : relating to memes
- memetics (n.) : the study of memes
4 : in blogspeak, an idea that is spread from blog to blog
5 : an internet information generator, especially of random or contentless information “
“A pervasive idea within a given culture. The idea may be spread through all channels of communication (word of mouth, photography, ad campaigns, television, &c.). The goal of the meme is to change the thought patterns of the populace.”
Dictionary.com: “ a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.”
“an idea or element of social behaviour passed on through generations in a culture, esp by imitation”
“Richard Dawkins’s term for an idea considered as a replicator, especially with the connotation that memes parasitise people into propagating them much as viruses do.
Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea.
The term is used especially in the phrase “meme complex” denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organised belief system, such as a religion. However, “meme” is often misused to mean “meme complex”.
Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has become more important than biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons.
See also memetic algorithm.”
In other words, as a gene is the basic unit of heredity, a meme is the basic unit of culture. Culture cannot exist without memes. Fandoms, being a form of culture, also cannot exist without memes. Literature, Television, Film, all forms of entertainment are based upon the creation and propagation of memes. Any idea that can be transmitted is a meme. Propaganda is, in a very real sense, the science of applied memetics. “Poor, misunderstood Discord” is a meme, but that doesn’t make it trivial.