Meme Metamorphosis

Image created by Michael Preston

Image created by Michael Preston

Written by Michael Preston, The Woodgrove Outlander

Success Kid, Keyboard Cat, Honey Badger, Y U NO Guy. Almost anyone who avidly uses the Internet has heard these names. These obscure Internet videos, photos, and GIFs are known as memes and they are spreading like wildfire.

A meme, as defined by, is “a concept or idea that spreads ‘virally’ from one person to another via the Internet.” These ideas are typically represented in the form of photos or videos. All this aside, in order for a meme to really be a meme it needs to be humorous. This can be achieved a million different ways, but typically the creators employ a caption system as their method of delivery. In this sense, you could compare memes to stand-up comedy; the comedians choose a method of delivery that they believe will maximize the hilarity of the material. The only difference is, while a comedian simply tells a joke, the meme creator must go through a process to get their material to become a true meme. This is known as the meme metamorphosis.

Phase 1: Conception

At this point in the cycle, the meme creator has found material they believe has the potential to be a meme. This material may not necessarily be the creators own material, as sometimes the media used for memes are stolen from websites like Reddit, 4chan, or Tumblr.

Phase 2: Outbreak

Now the creator has finished the meme and looks to spread it in some way. The creator may not have the intention of making the meme go viral, but once he has put it onto social media sites such as Instagram or Facebook it is no longer under his control. If people enjoy the meme, they too will spread it. This is how memes go viral.

Phase 3: Epidemic

The meme is everywhere. Every social media news feed is infected. Other meme creators are making knock-offs hoping they become as popular.

Phase 4: Necrosis

The reign of chaos has ended. Nobody finds it funny anymore. The meme has decayed into the depths of the Internet, never to be heard of again. Once this step is reached, the meme has become a true meme. The creator can now bask in their glorious accomplishment and watch the Internet recover from the horribly delightful thing that is a meme.