The Internet Meme

A Case Study

for students in Higher Education

and 'Others'

The Internet Meme: Social Media’s Replicator of Powerful Ideas

Today’s Web 2.0 social media are enabling people to communicate with nearly unlimited freedom and flexibility.This ability to create and share online content translates into unprecedented levels of power and influence for everyday folks who, prior to Web 2.0, could only consume the content that was created, edited, and published by the mainstream media.

As shown in the CBC News report (on right), the once credible and influential voice of popular radio host Jian Ghomeshi was virtually silenced by social media within less than a week of his being fired by the CBC for “causing physical injury to a woman” that “was inconsistent with the character of the public broadcaster” and “fundamentally unacceptable for any employee.”

When Ghomeshi’s firing was first announced on October 26, 2014, many of his fans, friends, and business associates refused to believe that he deserved such harsh treatment. However, as the days passed and more of his alleged assault victims came forward to publicly disclose the painful details of his non-consensual and harsh abuse, the tide of public opinion began to change–and most of Ghomeshi’s fans, friends, and associates stopped supporting him. The skyrocketing numbers of disapproving Twitter tweets and Facebook “unlikes” were fueled by a groundswell of moral outrage that spread across the internet–and was often expressed in the form of the internet meme.

In this case study, we will take a closer look at “the internet meme” and attempt to better understand how it, as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins suggests, is “a new kind of replicator [that] has emerged on this very planet”.

The videos below are examples of some very recent attempts at “memifying” the Ghomeshi scandal. Two are based on famous memes that have been around for awhile–Downfall/Hitler Reacts and Pedobear–and the third one is based on the famous Facebook post that Ghomeshi made on the day he was fired.

Based on Pedobear meme

Based on Downfall/Hitler Reacts meme

Based on Ghomeshi’s Facebook diatribe