Four Ways to Avoid Internet Memes

There is a joke on the web that shows a computer geek in front of his computer, yelling down the hall to his family, “I’ll be just a minute more. Someone on the Internet is wrong!”

There is some truth in that, which is why it’s so funny.

Most of us spend our working time online, checking email, and doing research, making it extremely difficult to ignore some of the other “stuff” on the web.

You know those silly images, videos, phrases, or concepts that spreads virally via the web?

Referred to as Internet memes, these concepts (for the most part) spread from person to person for no logical reason other than for entertainment purposes.

There are, however, instances where these memes have gone viral for the purpose of raising awareness about a specific issue or topic (i.e. most recently the video Kony 2012). Sorting through which ones to read and which to ignore can be a huge task given the obscene number of memes out there.

Mary Choi shares a few rules in last month’s Wired to help you learn which ones to avoid.

  1. Avoid Knock-Offs. You can cut down the amount of time you’re spending reading this “stuff” by avoiding knock-offs. Typically what happens with memes is that once one goes viral, several variations follow suit. For example, Twitter meme!@#$ My Dad Says became so huge it was turned into a sitcom. It also spawned several similar memes including !@#$ Single Girls Say and !@#$ Yogis Say, all of which were considered rip-offs and not nearly as funny.
  2. Know Your Friends. Acknowledge not everyone has the same sense of humour or general know-how as you. Choi says you have to “curate the so-called curators.” By doing so, you will be able to cut down on the amount of stuff that crosses your path. If someone you know has forwarded or posted a link they think is hilarious, but you know they don’t have a good (or similar) sense of humour, Choi suggests you may want to ignore their post because you likely won’t find it interesting or funny. On the flip side, if the person is comedic in nature or shares a similar sense of humour, it might be worth checking the link out.
  3. Know Yourself. If the content doesn’t appeal to you, don’t read it. If cuddly kittens or puppies do it for you, do yourself a favor and ignore the email your coworker just forwarded with the cute pictures.
  4. Have No Fear. Choi suggests that FOMO (fear of missing out) is what drives memes to be so powerful. The notion of “everyone is doing it” causes people to unnecessarily read more stuff than they really need to for fear they might miss out. To this Choi says, “Vanquish your desire to participate!”

There are two sides to this piece that are extremely important to acknowledge.

The first is we all are already terribly pressed for time as it is. If you can cut down on the amount of stuff that crosses your path, you will have more time to focus on the things that really matter.

The second consideration is we must never underestimate the power of the Internet. From a business perspective, successful memes provide the opportunity to reach the masses at any given moment. In fact, some of the more popular memes have created business opportunities both on and offline, and have given existing businesses a boost.

Assuming your business has an online component, why not consider using a meme to help market it? It may take a few attempts, but it could very be worth it in the end. Many companies today are incorporating this concept into their marketing.

To learn more about how to effectively market with memes, click here.