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A lesson in Internet culture, going viral

Late last year Netflix released the film “Bird Box,” which saw immediate success, as well as an immediate wave of memes. This sudden influx of memes into the online hub -- coupled with the suspicion that many of those who posted “Bird Box” memes were not very active on the site and had very few followers - led many to believe that the whole viral nature and sudden emergence of “Bird Box” memes was all just a marketing strategy fronted by multiple Netflix-created accounts to infect the internet. 

Of course, like most theories, these claims lacked evidence and even many of the accused “bot” accounts came forward denying their alleged involvement with Netflix. 

Whether or not Netflix was behind these memes, there is something unique about them. The “Bird Box” memes seemingly skipped the origin in small internet communities and went viral instantly due to users sharing a common experience or event (watching the same movie). What resulted were low quality, easy to access memes that may have burned hot for awhile, but will ultimately were forgotten in a week’s time. Unlike “Bird Box” memes, memes created organically in smaller pockets of the internet tend to last longer. However, they may still suffer the same fate of their counterparts in the end with only a few memes gaining everlasting meme status and cementing their place on the internet, though they are few are far between.

This event brings up an interesting aspect of meme culture: what makes something memeable? The “Bird Box” memes are similar to other viral memes in their extreme ease of accessibility and mainstream popularity. Twitter, one of the most mainstream of social media platforms, is the perfect site for memes to either become widely popular or to even be fabricated as seen with the “Bird Box” situation. 

A more divisive, yet very important, part of meme culture is the hierarchy of memers and their role in a meme’s life cycle. Generally memes originate from smaller, more closely knit platforms such as Reddit, 4chan, and even iFunny. The memes at this point are relatively unknown and often are classified as “dank” or “fresh.” This is a critical part in a meme’s long term effect, as generally these smaller communities make higher quality memes. However, as time goes on and word is spread of a new meme, the mainstream platforms like Instagram and Twitter begin to pick up on the phenomenon and join in on the joke because, after all, a meme is just a repeated joke often varying in its presentation. The creators and original enjoyers of a meme brand the mainstream audience negatively as, “normies” and often believe that a meme is perceived to be dead once the mainstream audience gets a hold of it and crushes a memes comedic value.


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