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Anatomy of a Meme: From Inside Joke to Viral Celebrity
Though memes have made their way into mass culture, they will likely remain more surprise than science.
There was a time when Internet memes were relegated to the depths of message boards like 4chan, existing only as offbeat inside jokes between a niche user base. Today you may find it difficult to avoid seeing the meme du jour sprawled across your Facebook wall, your Instagram feed, your TV screen in a Good Morning America segment, and more commonly, in branded messaging.
Social media has irrevocably changed the way people are able to share and access content online, facilitating the delivery mechanism for meme driven internet culture. And while some memes seem to appear out of nowhere, approaching critical mass in the blink of an eye, the road to fleeting internet fame can be quite cyclical.
We’ve reverse engineered a few examples of pictorial memes, here’s how they evolved…
The origins of memes are a mixed bag. Many times a meme is a remixed version of an innocuously shared personal photo. Other times a meme uses a still from a video –– anything from a “New New Hollywood” YouTube sensation to a decade old Bjork music video. Where a meme comes from seems to be irrelevant, as long as it possess a specific voice. In particular, it needs a specific voice that can be properly developed and expanded upon by other users as they remix and recreate.
A key initial arbiter of virality is Reddit. Reddit has rapidly grown from a fringy nerd playground to one of the most influential websites on the internet. Here, thousands of images are posted hourly, particularly in dedicated subreddits like r/Pics, r/Funny and r/PhotoshopBattles. The images that eventually float to the front page are equal parts amusing, unexpected, relatable and silly.
Once an image becomes a bona fide hit on Reddit, users on Tumblr reblog it ad nauseam. Additionally, new iterations of the meme appear as Tumblr users take the image and make it their own. At the same time Buzzfeed, like many media outlets that mine Reddit for stories, grabs the best and creates listicles. The best memes and articles make the front page, gaining hundreds of thousands of eyeballs. After Buzzfeed highlights a meme, other sources like Funny or Die and CollegeHumor tend to latch on too.
While some people may think that shared content is born on Facebook and Twitter, these platforms are frequently the final step in a meme’s journey to mass consumption. Here, users share a Buzzfeed post, they comment on a meme’s hilarity or inanity and they expose it to another huge group who has yet to see it. People with no interest in internet culture or fluff-piece listicles most likely have at least one Facebook friend who does.
How long a meme stays relevant at this point is a different story. Lifespan is incredibly difficult to predict. Memes with longevity like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub are the exception not the rule. Both exist outside of a singular snapshot and have owners (in fact, “meme agents”) dedicated to their long-term relevance.
Though there appears to be a pattern for many memes’ lifecycles, countless factors can muddle the trajectory. For example, “Astronaut Sloth” saw new life well after its peak after a Reddit user made a post documenting a prank where the meme played an integral role. The post was hugely popular and got picked up by multiple sources.
Aside from special cases like this, it is essential to align yourself early and transition from idea to execution fast. Though memes have made their way into mass culture, they will likely remain more surprise than science.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.