Memes have recently taken over Facebook, showing up on all news feeds practically over night. Why is Facebook all of a sudden attracting this type of phenomena? Memes have been around for many years on the internet, but only recently have they been used in high quantities on Facebook. Here are the top 5 reasons why.
You saw them at their baby stages, at icanhascheezburger.com, failblog.org, and many other sites. But, only recently have they been catching on like wildfire on Facebook. The question is, what unique influences have created this craze? From Facebook interface updates to new internet phenomena, here are five top reasons that memes have taken center stage:
1. Ease of Sharing - Remember when Facebook required the old-fashioned copy and paste method to share images on the site? Although this may seem like an easy way to some people to share images found on the internet with friends, less technologically-savvy users may not realize that this is a possibility. They may even see their friends doing it, but may also assume that this capability is left to the "experts." Recently, Facebook made changes to the capabilities of sharing, allowing any user to share a photo that interests them by clicking just two buttons: "Share" and "Share Photo." This ease of sharing photos with friends has not only expanded the amount of users that utilize this feature, but it has increased the amount of shared photos from users who were already sharing through the copy and paste method. Users that have very busy lives and only spend a couple minutes on Facebook a day can now share more pictures in a short amount of time.
2. The "Like" Addition - Even more user-friendly and arguably addicting, the addition of "I like this" by Facebook on February 9th, 2009 also created more efficiency than its previously available options. What would normally take a user about 30 seconds to type a clever comment on a friend's status update, picture, or action, now would take less than a second. Simply clicking on the "like" button can't ever give as much information about the commentee's views on a picture as a comment could. However, most users want to get through as many friends' updates and pictures as they can. Now, instead of browsing through 50 updates and pictures throughout the day and choosing 2 or so to comment on, a user can "like" 20 other updates or pictures in addition, all in the same amount of time. Although having more comments is usually seen as having more traffick and therefore "more valuable" than "likes," the amount of ease in clicking one button to show interest in something has vastly increased users' perceptions of popular pictures. Especially when a picture gets that ever-so-coveted comma separating the thousands digit from the hundreds (reaching over 1,000 likes from other users), there's a natural reaction to be more interested in what the picture has to say because it looks like it's more popular. Facebook is a social network, so users are most often socially-motivated and are usually more interested in popular news and pictures.
3. College Meme Pages - No one knows where it started, but the most popular memers in the past couple of months have been college students. Universities across the U.S., Canada, and Europe have been creating meme pages on Facebook for their schools like mad. The interesting thing is that most pages aren't affiliated with any school-sponsored groups. These pages are created by individual students or groups of college friends, mostly for the purpose of entertaining themselves and their classmates.
4. It Captures Your Attention - All the other reasons would not have sustained this craze all by themselves. Picture memes are interesting to look at. You can have many updates in your news feed at one point in time, but which updates do you look at first? Your eyes fall upon the words and images that are most attractive to you, take less time to understand, and speak to your interests the most. With a few words and a colorful picture, a user can immediately tell whether a meme speaks to their interests. In a way, Facebook created this preferability among its users by not allowing text formatting for status updates. Every status is subject to solely the content of the update. A user cannot change the font size, type, or color to catch its reader's attention. Although this has been a characteristic of Facebook since its birth, it did not effect much until Facebook made changes to its news feed, making photos larger and more prominent.
5. The Definition of a Meme - Just like a fad or trend, the very definition of a meme sparks interest and popularity. Memes are easily spread from user to user, and many people enjoy them because they know that they're a part of a large group of people doing the same thing together. Once a meme trend starts, it tends to exponentialize itself by its very nature. Memes were popular before they started being used on Facebook, but a meme can create a home on one or many sources. The popularity of a meme exists alongside with its domain. A popular meme on Facebook may not catch on when added to a different site, because the users may not be aware of the trend. Chances are it would, especially when copied from an internet giant like Facebook, but on slightly less popular sites it might not exponentialize when introduced to foreign domains.
Reimold, Dan. "MediaShift." PBS. PBS, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2012/02/college-memes-madness-students-posting-non-stop-on-facebook045.html>.
Zuckerberg, Mark. "I Like This." Facebook. Facebook, 9 Feb. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. <https://www.facebook.com/facebook>.