By Alex Pearl ’10
Pop culture is an infectious thing.
Like the flu or humanity according to Hugo Weaving, pop culture will surge its way through any adaptive mass capable of regular access by the general first-world population.
Such is true with the Internet. While it is also a host for external pop culture like television and movie stars, media, literature and news about all three, it has also proved capable of developing a popular culture of its own.
Unfortunately for the Internet, this culture in question is nonsensical on one end of the spectrum, and terrifying on the other.
For example, most Internet-goers are familiar with Lolcats (pronounced “lawl-katz”), a Photoshopped picture of a cat or a kitten that is almost always accompanied by a misspelled or grammatically erroneous caption such as “i can haz cheezburger?” or “protecting internets… WITH MAH LAZOR!!!” This can be considered relatively tame as far as Internet fare is concerned.
Lolcats are a part of an Internet culture that seems to revere randomness. This culture may extend to the boundaries of nerdiness, or cruelty, but the root of most Internet humor – and, therefore, random culture – is found in off-the-wall bits called “memes.”
A meme is a commonly-occurring trend on the Internet, or at least a trend that has occurred and been approved by the general populace most often on several occasions.
These memes can consist of edited pictures, but can also be quips or non-sequiturs found on message boards and forums.
There are several trends to memes: The first is that caps-lock is the “cruise control for cool.” In more or less words, this means that all-capital letters, which are the Internet equivalent of screaming your face off, are one of the primary keys to opening the door of funny.
The second rule is that the less punctuation there is in a meme, the funnier it is.
In a meme, commas and colons interrupt flow, and a sentence ending without an exclamation point or a period make the statement in a meme seem more abrupt or frantic.
For example, a picture of a dog wearing a Roman legionnaire’s hat and capital letters (notice: capital letters) reading “STOP RIGHT THERE CRIMINAL SCUM” is much more haphazard and unpredictable-sounding than a simple “Stop right there, criminal scum!”
There are many other lesser rules, including the rampant use of swearing, adorable animals, poor quality drawings, insensitivity verging on cruelty, cruelty, ugly animals, other memes, and/or pop-culture references, but the two regarding “Internet syntax” are the most commonly shared among memes.
How can one be a part of Internet pop culture, if it’s so accessible but so erratic? If memes are viewed by a practiced and learned eye, they can become “randomly predictable” over time.
While making some memes unsurprising and unentertaining, this also demonstrates a level of knowledge that may allow an individual to create their own memes, which can be posted on various message boards to accrue renown.
After all, a person who listens to experienced orators all his life picks up a thing or two about speaking. Knowledge about randomness is gained through observation of randomness, and in time the layman can become a strange, hilarious Internet god.