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Don’t get the whole ‘meme’ thing? Look no further.
The modern meme is truly a thing to behold. Honed over decades of inside video game jokes and tech speak, the meme as we know it today can be anything from a viral video challenge to Shrek smoking a blunt.
The idea of what a meme is has changed a lot since the term was first coined back in 1974. It’s now used almost exclusively to refer to a rapidly mutating idea that is passed around on the Internet. Of course, the whole idea of a meme can be slippery to pin down if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, especially when things like Dank Memes and Deep Fried Memes are thrown into the mix.
Luckily, the internet can solve almost any problem it creates. There are countless articles and YouTube videos explaining memes and how they operate. And if you’re looking to figure out these wily internet ephemera, YouTube channel Casually Explained just dropped a video that condenses modern meme basics into eight informative—but entertaining—minutes.
If you’re unfamiliar with Casually Explained, the whole idea is to, well, casually explain things. The channel has been around since December of 2015, dropping knowledge on people in a laidback, easy to digest format. Everything from the solar system to dating has been covered, sometimes satirically and sometimes in a more straightforward way (although always with a sense of humor).
As someone who obviously spends a lot of time online, the narrator knows what he’s talking about, which comes in handy when you’re trying to explain something as ethereal as memes.
He begins by giving a pretty good, updated definition of a meme: “An element of culture passed from one individual to another through the internet.”
He then gets into meme origins by discussing things like “1337 speak,” aka the retro style of typing using numbers and characters to replace certain letters.
He even gets into the life cycle of a meme, stating that they often start on websites like 4Chan and are figuratively dead before showing up on some late night show your dad watches.
For a basic explanation of memes that’s under 10 minutes, you couldn’t ask much more from this video. Although, as the narrator points out, there’s basically no end to the number of memes out there, with more being created as we speak.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.