The Evolution of Memes

evolution of memes

I wonder what we’d do without memes in this harsh, cold world filled with people who get offended over pretty much anything.

Memes have started to become a daily necessity for many of us who are constantly online and spend a good half of the day browsing through the internet, because what work do we really have, right?

Began as a mere concept, memes today have taken a whole another meaning than what it was meant when it was first coined.

From images to sketches, videos and even people, memes have evolved over decades along with the internet.

The presence of social media in almost all of our lives plays a major role in the evolution of memes over the years.

From 4chan to Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, social media is the most important source of memes for all of the meme addicts.

Memes have actually become a means of communication to a lot of us. If I have to be honest, I communicate with a few of my friends in the form of memes. And the best thing is they get it, they get me.

The best thing about memes is that it’s sharable and the fact that you can express what you feel in a humorous way. Some people still get offended with this but let’s not go there right now.

From a simple image that made people laugh to something that’s powerful enough to offend the people so much so that they get banned, this is the evolution of meme.

Origin of Meme.

Today, a meme is known as a funny image or a video clip that makes people laugh and they get the urge to share it and make it viral on the internet.

But many of you might not know this, the word “meme” was actually first used in biology, shocking right?

“Meme” was first coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene.”

In biology, a meme is an idea or an element of a system of behavior or culture that is passed from one person to another by imitation or any other non-generic means. Exactly like genes replicating and transmitting from one person to another.

So when the internet started becoming popular around the world, so did the memes. It wasn’t exactly known as memes those days. They were just funny images people spread around.

Social media wasn’t available those days so what people did to spread the joy of a funny photo or video was, they forwarded it around in emails just like Michael Scott does in ‘The Office’.

Memes started spreading around rapidly in an imageboard called 4chan. Slowly Facebook came into existence giving way to better and funnier images.

When YouTube came out in 2005, it changed the way these funny images functioned. The images changed into videos and they spread like wildfire.

The reason people called it meme was because these funny images and videos acted somewhat similar to what Dawkins explained in his famous book.

You know how living beings pass around only the good qualities whether genetically or non-genetically to others. Well, this is how internet memes started acting like which is known as “Natural Selection”.

Naturally, in the process of evolution, only the best few memes survived among thousands created. And some still exist and is very much relevant.

Internet Memes.

I might have exaggerated the fact that memes initially started out as funny images that were forwarded around in emails. In fact, the first meme that went viral was actually a video of a creepy baby dancing.

That quickly escalated to “all your base are belong to us,” an image taken from the 1998 Japanese video game Zero Wing. It was one of the earliest memes to spread around the internet which actually means “all of your bases are now under our control”.

There are different types of memes and along with time memes have also changed and evolved.

Top Text/Bottom Text.

First, there were the “top text/bottom text” memes. This is the type of meme where there is a picture or a funny image along with a single sentence or a two-step punchlines. For example the Philosoraptor, a dinosaur with its own absurd philosophies.

Rage Comics.

This was followed by “Rage Comics”. These were multipanel illustrations representing different real-life situations. Rage comics made it easier for people to express their feelings without having to write anything down. Because people knew exactly what the faces meant.


YouTube and Twitter gave rise to meme videos that became funnier and more relevant. It was easier to share and more people could understand it.


Tumblr was the main reason memes went mainstream. The memes in Tumblr were original, fresh, and reached a wider audience level.

There were different groups created just for a certain type of meme and only people that relate were a part of it. It increased creativity as well as engagement.


Then came my personal favorite form of meme, the Vine. Vines was a platform for people where they created a six-second short video which is probably the best thing ever created.

Vines increased the creativity of people to such a huge level that it stopped as there were too many videos. A sad day, but thanks to YouTube, the golden vines still live.

Thanks to the internet, slowly and steadily, the meme culture grew and today it’s so popular that we communicate in memes.

There are basically three types of memes. I know it’s absurd but yes, memes have categories too. And they are explained below.

Normie Memes.

Normie memes are, as the name suggests normal memes, and not Kylie Jenner’s dog memes. These are the memes that are easily identifiable and most importantly the ones your mom finds funny.

Dank Memes.

Dank memes are the golden memes, the ones that will stay around for a long time. Because they are relevant and you can change the contents, remix them the way you want and make it relevant.

These are the memes that would normally not make sense. However, in the name of comedy, it is so excessively overdone, that it becomes ironic and funny. For example the “Johny Johny” memes.

Dark Memes.

Dark memes are, as the name suggests, dark humorous images and videos that are not for everybody. These memes are highly controversial and touch the subject matters that are cliché and somewhat a taboo. For example, jokes on 9/11, terrorism, depression or anything controversial.

Future of Memes.

People might think that memes are short lived. They won’t survive another decade *mocking SpongeBob face*. But the truth is, memes are going nowhere.

Yes, the ones that are weak, not relatable, and funny for a minute might disappear. But something that you can relate to, the memes that are so funny it hurts your stomach every time you see it, and the dank memes are here to stay.

Have you seen Sean Bean’s “one does not simply” meme fade away till date? No, right? Exactly my point.

Memes are here to stay, evolve and become funnier than ever before, as long as the internet is here to stay.


About the author


Talks to self, more than others. Watches "the Office" all night and quotes Michael Scott all day.
"I am Beyoncé, always."