Memes are all around us, and not many people expected that they would enter the mainstream so successfully, and in such a short period of time too. Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay – but how did it all start? It seems like just a few years ago memes were this niche thing limited to a few small online societies, but not many people realize that the general concept has existed for much longer than that, before even the Internet. After all, ideas like repeating catchphrases from TV shows, or catchy song lyrics, are nothing new.
The Early Days
Early Internet memes were rare and mostly limited to specific communities. It can be hard to trace back every single instance nowadays, as some of the original forums are either offline, or have undergone complete renovations that have destroyed their old databases. But those who’ve been on the Internet for a couple of decades may remember old gems like Dancing Baby and the Hamster Dance, and of course the timeless classic of Rick Rolling.
It was precisely around that time – towards the very late 90s and the beginning of the 2000s – that Internet memes started to transform into a popular concept, but few probably knew what was coming next.
The “Golden Ages”
Around the middle of the 2000s, things really took off, and memes were right around the corner towards the end of the decade. As message and image boards like 4chan started to gain popularity, their content began to spread outside of the original forums, and found its place all over the Internet.
Entire sites dedicated to memes were founded, including the popular I Can Has Cheezburger, which also spawned numerous similar projects. “Rage comics” were arguably one of the most popular formats which spread outside of traditional online communities, and even into the real world, becoming an integral part of some companies’ business models. Sites like Rage Maker were created, allowing people to share their own works easily.
Today and Beyond
Memes are an important part of Internet culture now, for better or worse, and there are many sites dedicated to the topic, and even more are popping up on a daily basis. Will the craze die down anytime soon? It’s hard to tell. But it’s interesting to note that an entire generation of kids is growing up with memes right now, and they will see them as part of their childhood at some point in the future.
Another interesting observation is that the popularity of memes seems to go hand in hand with that of the Internet itself. And as we can clearly see, it’s becoming more and more tightly integrated into our lives, so it makes sense to expect that memes are not going anywhere anytime soon. It will certainly be interesting to see what forms they will take on in the future though, as the “evolution” of the idea has been quite amazing so far, and we’re sure that there is even more to see.