How do you find motivation for change and growth in a culture where everything we do is automatic? I often find myself looking for inspiration through enlightened mystics who are true transformation agents. I never tire of hearing their words of wisdom. These days, I also commonly see memes that help inspire and transform me, which I share in the hopes they will have the same effect on others.
What is a meme? It’s usually a collection of words, sometimes a quote or a bit of insight, with a photo, video or cartoon of some kind. It is an online element of culture that lives in one person’s mind and then reproduces itself, spreading to other minds. For example, a meme might have a sunset in the background and say, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The meme gains speed and momentum by distributing itself far and wide through social media avenues, passing from friend to friend like a contagion, extending out to associates and throughout society.
The word meme brings to mind the word “remember,” which makes sense because memes are designed to be memorable. They take complex concepts and boil them down into a simpler, more straightforward form. They become clearer, more powerful and easier to remember.
Memes can also be emotionally or psychologically cathartic. You might be experiencing something upsetting and unwieldy, like the end of a relationship, and a meme can sum it up in such a way that allows you to accept the break-up more gracefully.
It might provide some epiphany, for example, by demonstrating how to show self-respect and let someone go. For instance, I’ve seen many people resonate with the meme that says: “When someone treats you like an option, help them narrow their choices by removing yourself from the equation.”
Or a meme might encourage someone to work harder to show their love, by helping them realize they are taking someone else for granted. For instance, this meme can be effective: “When a woman stops crying over you, that’s because someone else is making her smile.”
I have friends who divide up on either side of the To Meme or Not To Meme question. Some make it a daily practice to scroll through memes on the internet, considering them carefully, testing them out in their minds and clicking like or re-sharing them if the they speak cleverness or truth in some way. Others turn away from their simplicity, tossing them aside like unhelpful platitudes.
Where do I fall on the To Meme or Not To Meme question? I embrace memes as a part of our world that can motivate and connect us to each other. They can inspire us, explain the world to us and shine light on bits of wisdom surrounding our humanity.
So as for me, I will Meme, and that’s because I’m on a continual search—in every possible location—for wisdom and meaning and all of the aha moments life has to offer.