Memes are Millennial Social Relations

I am an English major, and as an English major I am required to take three period classes for my degree. Period classes consist of any classes that focus on a period of time before 1890. These classes range from Ancient to Medieval to Renaissance, to 18th and 19th century works. In the Romantic period - Early 1800s for instance, poets and writers write in long sometimes incoherent prose that take up pages and pages to say things that could be condensed into 3 or 4 sentences. This kind of work reflects the needs of the time, as poets and artists were reconnecting and rediscovering nature through their highly educated and generally pretentious - I use pretentious as an observation rather than a judgment - positions. Why does all of this matter? Really it doesn't, except that it lead me to some kind of nonsensical revelation about meme culture. 

As capitalism sweeps us toward technological advancements determined to create increasingly efficient ways of working and living, we also look toward more efficient ways of communicating. This long and lengthy prose have been replaced with writing that aims to be concise and accessible. While this does not extend to all contemporary writers and writing, it manifests itself in something else: meme culture. 

What is meme culture? 

A meme is some kind of visual piece of information, whether it be words, pictures, or video that exists as a mode of cultural transmission. While we typically distinguish between "memes" and "gifs", both images and videos are part of meme culture. What's important about memes is that they condense information into only the most crucial details through visual and ideological expression. In other words, memes take complex social relations and convey them with one compact image. 

Here's the thing, the more I started thinking about it the more I realized that all of my meaningful relationships are dictated by meme culture. This isn't necessarily a bad or a good thing; it's actually quite fun. What's crazy to me is that I am able to maintain friendships that I consider to be deep and meaningful friendships solely through the use of memes. Memes are tailored to your ideologies, to your inner most thoughts, to your relationships with others. You can literally find every culture and subculture's parallel existence through memes. It is at the point where there are subcultures created around the existence of memes and how and why they determine our relationships. 

I'm not sure I have any definitive claim here, except to say that memes are the romantic poems of today. We don't just have to think of memes as funny things that we tag our friends in, we can also think of memes as art, philosophy, and political theory. 


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