A person who is talented in the art of making a meme. – Urban Dictionary
My name is Eli, and I’m a Meme-aholic. It has been, oh, six seconds since I last used (see image above). I love memes. I look at the social media landscape around me on the internet, and everything I see I think, “This would be so awesome… as a meme!” Some people say it’s a sickness, but I’m comfortable with my memer lifestyle.
I meme probably more than most people I know online. And whereas many of them are simply sharing memes, I love to create them, to put a meme or variation of a meme out there into the wild that has never been done exactly that way before. Some people think I meme too much. Some people hate memes, think they’re a lazy man’s form of satire, intellectual drivel.
To those people, I say:
Memes are at the soul of culture itself, and if Richard Dawkins is to be believed are actually literally alive. Okay, so maybe Grumpy Cat per se is not the soul of cultural expression.
Nonetheless, memes as a whole are at the core of civilization, because a meme, when it comes down to it, is nothing but a repeated idea. It’s said there are only seven stories, seven jokes, seven myths being told and retold throughout human history. The modern meme as we understand it through the world wide web, is simply telling these same stories, these same jokes, through a new medium.
Nor are they as easy as someone who thinks them intellectually brain dead believes them to be. While it’s true anyone can easily meme, there are many memes that never catch on, or flare up and quickly die down. Others last much longer.
A memer enjoys hits and misses, memes that raise a few light chuckles at best, and memes that evoke tearful laughter. If it was as easy as it looked, every one I made would go viral, right? Most do not, but I like to see that my social media and blog followers are enjoying them. If they aren’t, then I need to try again, until I find the formula for success. It isn’t just how good I am, either, because there are many reasons why a good joke might not spread.
I will probably always meme, for the rest of my days, because I believe the quality of a life is largely determined by its amount of humor, and I find a relieving humor in being able to have fun with images, videos, and ideas that are out there in the public consciousness, or part of the public at least.
Being a successful memer, on a regular basis, as opposed to a one-off fluke which nearly anyone could theoretically experience (if they ever meme, at least), actually is more perspiration than inspiration. Sometimes the memes practically write themselves, other times you have to work with them.
So, at the risk of implying you will be successful if you follow my approach (you may or may not), or that I am some grand guru (I am not, but some people have asked how I do certain things) let me share a bit about the how of meme-ing.
My first tool, without which nothing else can happen, is of course the tool to make the meme. Having an image and a clever comment in my head do me no good if I can’t put them together. While there are many ways of doing this, I’m a big fan of not reinventing the wheel. In ye olden dayes people may have had to use Photoshop for an image meme, or a video editor for a video meme, but these days we have many tools online designed just for that purpose, many of them free if you can handle a small watermark at the bottom of the image. In my opinion, if your audience missed the meme for the watermark, they either weren’t a good audience, or it wasn’t a good meme.
My favorite is Imgflip. Easy to use, to customize when necessary (upload your own images to meme, add more text boxes, etc…), plus a good selection of the best meme images right there, plus you can easily mark the image as private. This is especially useful when you misspell a meme and only realize after making it but right before you share it the internet… trust me, it happens. There are other good meme makers on the web and you might prefer a different one from me.
For videos, you can often find a similar meme maker, if the video clip is popular enough. For example, you can make a Hitler Video Meme at http://downfall.jfedor.org.
Hitler Finds Out Google+ is Now a Standalone Google Product
Next comes the really hard part: making a meme. The image or video can be a popular one many memers are using, or something original (iconic images tend to spread more, but every iconic image became one itself at some point). It should have some relevance to a topic many people, if only in your own social media circles, are discussing, and preferably one you have a passion for. Don’t try to force the words if they don’t come to mind immediately, let the image and the context soak into you, until they trigger associations that galvanize the words to each other like they were made for each other. If your meme feels forced, it probably is.
Videos are especially tricky. Whereas with a static image it is possible to adjust the inherent mood quite easily (someone who is angry can be made to seem surprised, someone surprised can be made to seem skeptical, etc…), videos have more of an inherent mood. The Hitler meme above, for example, is a movie scene whose tone was obviously and unambiguously one of a Hitler who is angry, exasperated, frustrated, starting to feel crushed by the weight of some burden, and more, and those inherent moods change from moment to moment, as do the other actors in the scene.
Dialog has to be timed, as best possible, to fit within the allowed spoken dialog (if there are too many words on the screen, or too few, it seems to be out of sync. The Hitler meme maker I have used claims to have text boxes fitted to time the video, but while they generally line up, my own experiments have taught me to watch the video side-by-side with what I type and try to match, as well to get get the feel of every part of the scene from the first words to the last. You can get away with less-than-perfect, as I believe I have (fluent German speakers may disagree, may even wish me to be brought before the Great German Dictionary Counsel to stand charges for my crimes), but only to a point.
Of course, some memes get around this by simply juxtaposing the literal moods and words of the video, or animated gif (a type of meme I have yet to really try my hand at) with some relevant situation. Since I have never really tried it, I can’t say much about it except as an observer, and it can be effective, to me at least, if done right. That just means that, for this memer, the journey isn’t complete, as long as there are memes I have not tried.
Meme Making comes down to a set of basic elements:
1) The piece of content that is central to the meme.
2) The dialog, or visual effects in some cases, used to convey the message of the meme in the context it has been shared.
3) The tools to put these things together.
Even if you have all those things, the Ingredient X is you, your audience, and your timing. When these align brilliantly and your meme goes viral it is like a stroke of lightning. You can literally feel the power of the meme growing like wildfire as it spreads.
If you or a loved one are struggling with meme addiction, let my story teach you that all they really need is your support and understanding. There is nothing wrong with them for liking memes or trying to create them, and with the right tools it is even possible to live a productive and happy life as a memer. Memers are people like you and me, who sometimes need to come out of our closet and say, “I’m here, I meme, get used to it!” It does get better.
You ask me why I meme? I say: