In this week’s cat video news, one Instagram kitty may possibly possess the power to speak—or at the very least, let out a very excited meow.
Submitted by Instagram user laasaraaa and posted to catswiththeirtonguesout on February 19th, this video shows the kitty enthusiastically meowing “yeaaaah!!” when its owner asks. It even repeats it back in the same tune as its human.
Memes and the internet—they're made for each other. Not because they’re digital visual communication (though of course, they are that), but because they are the product of a hive mind. They are the shorthand of a hyper-connected group thinking in unison. And, friends, the web hive mind is a weird (often funny, sometimes dangerous) place.
The term “meme” comes from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. For Dawkins, cultural ideas were no different than genes—concepts that had to spread themselves from brain to brain as quickly as they could, replicating and mutating as they went. He called those artifacts memes, bits of cultural DNA that encoded society’s shared experiences while also constantly evolving.
But Dawkins coined the term in 1976, in his book The Selfish Gene, long before the modern internet, before memes morphed into what they are now. Back then, Dawkins was talking about passing along culture—song melodies, art styles, whatever. Today, denizens of the internet think of memes as jokes passed across social media in the form of image macros (those pictures of babies or cats or whatever with bold black-and-white words on them), hashtags (the thing you amended to what you just wrote on Twitter), GIFs (usually of a celebrity, reality star, or drag queen reacting to what you just wrote on Twitter), or videos (that Rick Astley video people used to send you).
Memes, then, have evolved into something much different than what Dawkins originally envisioned, and that evolution happened fast, shape-shifting from goofy animal images on 4chan to tools used for political gain and back again.
The Evolution of Memes
Memes as people understand them today didn’t really take off until the mid-1990s, when now small-seeming groups of average folk began gathering on the internet and populating its message boards and Usenet groups with things the group(s) found funny. Back in the early days, pixelated images of dancing babies or hamsters was all it took to get meme famous. As the internet moved from dial-up to DSL, and meme-swapping destinations like eBaum’s World gained traction, things got more sophisticated. Soon photographs of kittehs with captions written in their own special grammar, which eventually became known as LOLcats, were a thing, largely thanks to sites like the wildly popular imageboard 4chan. The LOLcat eventually came to exemplify the image macro: a simple image captioned with bold Impact font at the top and bottom—the top sets up the joke, the bottom pays it off. Typically, other image macros—like the infamous “I Can Has Cheezburger?” or the ones created using the catchphrase “All your base are belong to us”—just had a single caption.
Video memes, which theoretically go back to the days of emailing actual video files like badday.mpg in the late ‘90s, really took off after the launch of YouTube in 2005. YouTube and other video-sharing sites made using a video as the punchline to a joke much easier. Rickrolling—the practice of making someone click on a link to the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”—became massively popular. So did sending people links to the Trololo Guy, Russian baritone Eduard Khil singing the Soviet-era song “I Am Very Glad As I’m Finally Returning Back Home.” Neither of these videos was explicitly funny, nor was it inherently funny to be on the receiving end of them, but, as is the case with nearly all early-era memes, the humor lived in their repetition. It was trolling, but a mostly good-natured kind, the kind that feels more like an inside joke than a joke made at someone else’s expense.
Classic Meme 3: Rickrolling Still one of the internet’s best pranks, “Rickrolling” simply involves finding a way to get someone to click on a link for the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” It’s kinda one-note, but a decade later the bait-and-switch is still pretty damn funny. And it’s gotten that song more than 400 million views on YouTube.
YouTube also led to an outbreak of viral videos, including everything from Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and “Chocolate Rain” by Tay Zonday to “Evolution of Dance” and “Charlie Bit My Finger.” (We’re not linking to those, they have enough views already.) Video sharing also led to meme fads like “Turn Down For What” and “Harlem Shake,” which involved very simple concepts that people could interpret however they saw fit. “Shake,” for example, simply involved filming a group of people dancing erratically, often in costume, to Baauer’s track “Harlem Shake.”
As Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms began to shape online discourse in the late 2000s and early 2010s, images—particularly reaction GIFs—gained a massive new significance. And, as was the case with GIFs, older formats like image macros found all new uses. Meme generator sites made it easy to make macros on the fly, and soon memes like Awkward Moment Seal and Scumbag Steve seemed to arrive almost daily. (Times were simpler then; the humor was goofier, gentler—and the memes came easily.)
Classic Meme 4: Dramatic Chipmunk Dramatic Chipmunk comes from a clip from the Japanese TV show Hello! Morning wherein, yes, a chipmunk (well, it’s actually a prairie dog) makes a dramatic face. After being uploaded to YouTube in 2007, the video became a common response in online discussions, eventually spawning reaction GIFs, reenactments, and similar videos featuring different animals.
In the early days, memes started slowly and stuck around longer. (Seriously, Nyan Cat was around for literally years. Years.) But the speed of social media meant memes could blow up and be over in the span of a week, if not a day. Moments like #TheDress could come and go almost overnight. (Do you remember where you were when that happened?!) Events like the Olympics or political debates could launch memes that would be over at the conclusion of a 24-hour news cycle. Ideas, as Dawkins had noted decades ago, could launch an online inside joke instantly—and have a Twitter account, Tumblr, and dedicated hashtag in mere hours. And then they were gone.
The Future of Memes
These days, memes are about more that just LOLs. They’ve picked up two new purposes: to pledge allegiance to your in-group and to make you lots of money. Memes used to appeal to humanity’s fundamentals—everyone feels awkward sometimes, everyone likes watching a kitten acting a fool. But now people flash political memes like gang signs. Modern-day American memes are about political correctness or the Second Amendment, about the emptiness of offering thoughts and prayers to shooting victims or the satisfying inclusiveness of Black Panther. These memes are seen as a public declaration of your political positions and cultural identity, and, increasingly, an invitation for people with opposing viewpoints to come sass (or harass) you in the comments. Is combativeness a symptom of how contentious and polarized the internet has become? Heck yes. Memes are just snapshots of culture. Does it seem likely to stop anytime soon? Heck no.
Classic Meme 5: Double Rainbow Double Rainbow became a meme after Jimmy Kimmel tweeted a video of a man freaking out over seeing two rainbows simultaneously. The man, identified as Paul Vasquez, shows the rainbows while he cries and talks excitedly about the phenomenon off-camera. The video went viral and quickly spawned all manner of reaction posts and remix videos. Vasquez even appeared in a Microsoft Windows commercial, which kinda killed the fun TBH.
A Definitive Guide to Memes
Image Macros Pretty much any image with witty text or some kind of catchphrase imposed over it, usually in black-and-white Impact bold font. Example: LOLcats.
GIFs/Reaction GIFs GIFs have been on the internet for a long time. (Remember those waving American flags that populated every website in the 1990s?) Today, reaction GIFs—typically taken from film, TV, or a popular web video—have become a shorthand for showing how one feels about a particular statement or event. Example: Pretty much any GIF from RuPaul’s Drag Race ever.
Hashtags In the early 2000s, hashtags became a quick way to group conversations on social media. They eventually became memes and movements in themselves. Sometimes they’re as simple as attaching #fail to a post about a stupid mistake; other times they call attention to causes and events in the news. Examples: #OlympicsFail, #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo
Videos Video memes go back to the early days of sending around clips like badday.mpg, but after the advent of YouTube in 2005, sending around videos like Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” (Rickrolling) or “Nyan Cat” became wildly popular. So did participating in video memes like making one’s own “Harlem Shake” clip. Examples: Rickrolling, “Harlem Shake”
Letting everyone enjoy their own jokes in peace doesn’t sound so bad, and to a point, it wouldn’t be. But both ISIS and the so-called alt-right also use their memes to recruit new followers. Cartoonish in-jokes turn out to be an effective, nonthreatening entry point for even the most extreme ideologies. If you’re an isolated person looking to feel a sense of belonging, there’s no better way to project that you’re in the know than sharing a meme. The trouble is that it doesn’t end with taking “the red pill” and sharing a Pepe the Frog meme or two. Once you’ve swallowed one idea, your internet landscape and the algorithms generating it change. Suddenly you’re seeing memes about threatening to throw Jewish people out of helicopters, and gradually, that will stop shocking you.
The success of memes like the alt-right’s Pepe the Frog and ISIS’s one-finger salute points to political memes’ probable future function: spreading propaganda. They’re visual, and pictures often skip right over reason and punch your brain right in the truth center. Images and videos will only become easier to manipulate as AI gets smarter. Furthermore, something isn’t shareable because it’s objectively true. It just has to be relevant, to feel true. That space between truth and truthiness is where both memes and propaganda live. (If you’re thinking that you’d never share propaganda, remember this: Thanks to Russia, you probably already have.)
It’s not just propagandists: Every brand wants a slice of the hottest new meme. If it trends, it’s instantly a cheap Halloween costume, a catchphrase on a Forever 21 T-shirt, and all over fast–food company Twitter. Their reasons are pretty obvious. Companies like making things that project how socially adept they are, and people like buying those things for the same reason. Don’t expect that to slow down any time soon—the rise of cheaper bespoke manufacturing and 3-D printing will make it even easier to churn out a tsunami of short-lived trendy products, and it’ll thus only get easier to turn memes into money.
Meme creators sometimes make money too—both Grumpy and Nyan were major cash cats for their humans—but you’re probably going to want a backup plan. Sometimes you get Ellen appearances, scholarships, and lifetime supplies of whatever product you included in the meme. Sometimes you get zilch. Meme-makers of color in particular tend to lose out—partly because they tend to have less access to influence, partly because majority-white companies and booking agents aren’t spending time in spaces dominated by people of color, and partly because white America tends to think of black people’s creations as belonging to the entire black community rather than an individual. For example, Kayla Lewis, the originator of the phrase “on fleek,” never saw a cent of the profits from any of the gazillion ‘on fleek’ products various companies made. (Twas ever thus. See: the history of music.)
If there’s any justice at all, meme making will become a job, and companies will hire the people who have been making you snort at your laptop screen for years. Some already are, like Instagram star k@5sh. Might that kill the fun? Possibly. But our appetite for memes is virtually unlimited and there’s room for professional and amateur memes alike, and memeing thoughtfully and often may be the only antidote to those toxic political and fake news memes we were talking about earlier. Engaging trolls never works. The only way to beat them is to drown them out. So here’s to the future meme masters keeping Pepe the Frog way down at the bottom of your feed.
The 'Distracted Boyfriend' Meme's Photographer Explains All It began as a stock photo. A couple walks down a city street, the man looking back over his shoulder to ogle a woman in a red dress while his scandalized girlfriend looks on. But then the internet found it, transformed it into the Distracted Boyfriend meme, and everyone in the photo became an infinitely remixable metaphor. They became a cat, an expensive cat tower, and a cardboard box; department stores, Halloween, and Christmas; the youth, capitalism, and socialism.
Don't Look Now, But Extremists' Meme Armies Are Turning Into Militias Pepe the Frog used to be a bad joke. Then the self-described alt-right took their Great Meme War to the streets, sparring bloodily with antifascists across the country under Pepe-emblazoned banners. The frog had become to the alt-right what Uncle Sam is to the US Army: military propaganda. And as increasingly violent versions of Pepe keep goosestepping their way across the internet, the trolls sharing them are likely to become more violent themselves.
Memes Are Helping People of Color Cope With the Trump Era For senior culture writer Jason Parham—as for many people of color—learning to love memes was an act of self-care in the “racially charged” Trump era. “To be a person of color is to live a deeply political life,” Parham writes. “For once, instead of constantly feeling hopeless or cynical, I find myself laughing at our society's imbalanced systems almost daily. Finding amusement in dire circumstances has been both empowering and cathartic, and though I still participate in other types of activism, memes have become my favorite form of resistance.”
The birth, weird life, and afterlife of an internet meme Much like a song of the summer, memes are born to be remixed. But that can be a strange thing to watch for meme creators—especially if they weren't intending to create a meme in the first place. That's what happened to Craig Froehle, a business professor at the University of Cincinnati, when he tried to create an image to explain why equal opportunities don't always create equal outcomes. "So I grabbed a public photo of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, a stock image of a crate, clip art of a fence, and then spent a half-hour in PowerPoint concocting an image that I then posted on Google+," Froehle says. He ended up with a meme that has been repurposed hundreds, if not thousands, of times.
Breaking down the Harlem Shake meme with Matt and Kim Matt Johnson—the keyboardist for indie duo Matt & Kim—got up in front of a few thousand fans in Troy, New York, prepped the song “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, and gave his audience his master plan. "I just started the camera behind me. I’m going to start this song, and when this song drops I want you all to get as fucking freaky weird crazy as you can," Johnson announced. "I’m going to upload this shit to the internet tonight and we’re going to try to make this shit go viral tomorrow." It did.
The beauty of the Awkward Moment Seal Remember the Advice Animal memes? If you ask WIRED's staffers, there was none better than the Awkward Moment Seal—not even Socially Awkward Penguin. He was just who you needed when, say, your parents walked in during the sex scene of a movie. Or if you had to defecate in an untimely manner. So you may way to take a minute to bask the glory days of the Awkward Moment Seal, when our advice came from animals, and our biggest concern was mucking up everyday situations.
Looking at cat videos increases your happiness by 28% and decreases anxiety by 33%. Goats and chickens are more viral in Uganda than dogs and cats. Find out all you wanted to know about viral pets on the Internet.
“Sometime after Panther went missing he apparently turned up in a shelter in the next city 15 mi away,” she wrote. “Days before he was going to be euthanized he was adopted! And lived with a women [sic] for a little while in yet another city.”
Apparently the woman who adapted Panther kept him until she couldn’t any longer, and ultimately gave him to her parents—who just so happened to be @ngvhi’s neighbor. So, for over a year, Panther (whose name changed to Charlie) was literally living his best indoor cat life right next door.
“These happen to be the neighbors that bought a Siberian husky that quickly turned out to be too much to handle. I started taking care of him until they asked if I wanted to fully adopt him,” she continued.
Yep that’s right, this story also involves a doggo. The neighbors took in her cat, unknowingly, and she ended up with their dog.
of course I said yes which is why last year I adopted my beautiful baby boy trotsky. ALL WHILE UNBEKNOWNST TO ME MY LONG LOST CAT PANTHER WAS LIVING INDOORS. I took their dog and they took my cat. pic.twitter.com/LkkAYKb5Hi
One day, her neighbors called to ask if they had seen a missing Charlie—aka Panther. When Charlie/Panther did turn up, Trotsky the husky (which, side note, is a perfect name) didn’t freak out. “HE ALREADY KNEW HIM. THEY’D LIVED TOGETHER BEFORE,” @ngvhi wrote.
“Our neighbors were as flabbergasted as us and insisted we keep him because he really was ours. we (I was overruled) decided to give him back since he was comfortable there and we already have a dog and cat,” she tweeted.
“It was heartbreaking but I can’t even be sad bc today was truly surreal. They’ve given me permission to visit my beautiful boy whenever I’d like. How is it possible that they gave me this dog I adore and have fostered my first best friend.”
you know how you lose a person or pet and you wish you had one more day with them just to let them know how much you love them and how much they mean to you? I just had that day with Panther. I never would have guessed that 5 years later I’d get to kiss his little head again ❤️ pic.twitter.com/KQyEQ67QFy
“You know how you lose a person or pet and you wish you had one more day with them just to let them know how much you love them and how much they mean to you?,” she wrote. “I just had that day with Panther. I never would have guessed that 5 years later I’d get to kiss his little head again.”
this is surreal I’d just accepted he’d died and he’s sitting next to me purring like it’s nothing 😭❤️ my heart is so full!! pic.twitter.com/bnYxRwpKRp
David Simons anti-cop show struggled to find an audience before being lauded as a classic and making stars of Idris Elba, Michael B Jordan and others. Here, some of its writers and stars look back at a series that changed TV for ever
When, in 2001, the actor Frankie Faison accepted the role of deputy commissioner Ervin Burrell in a new HBO drama called The Wire, he thought he was signing up for a cop show. I was expecting it to be more about wiretapping, he remembers with amusement. It evolved into something much more fascinating.
HBO laboured under a similar misapprehension because The Wires creator, David Simon, had pitched the show to them as an unusually thoughtful police procedural, not an anatomy lesson in US dysfunction that he really had in mind. I sold it as a cop show, but they dont know its not really a cop show, he told the novelist George Pelecanos when he invited him to join the writing team. In fact, he said, it was something audaciously new: A novel for television.
We are all guilty of snobbishness at some point in our lives. Sometimes our opinions truly feel like the only one worth having. This is true of some things (bagels are only good in New York, for example), but not for most.
So, which snobs are the snobbiest?
10. Beer snobs
You know what is an absolutely fine beer? Sam Adams. It’s a good, classic beer, and I will shout it from the rooftops. You know what costs (roughly) a million dollars? Four-packs of paper-labeled canned beer from a brewery. Yes, those are sometimes worth the cash. No, you do not need to drink $$ beer exclusively, especially when buying for a crowd. Save your money, and buy a 12-pack from the beer aisle at your grocery store.
9. Condiment snobs
Many will disagree, but: Fancy, small-batch mayo and store-brand mayo are indistinguishable when slathered on a sandwich. Most hot sauces taste great on eggs. Even generic, non-Heinz ketchup is pretty much fine. Just pick one and leave the supermarket.
8. Wellness snobs
It’s great to care about yourself and your own well-being. It is not so great to sandwich Instagram-caption wellness lectures between two angel emojis. I will keep my toxin-laden makeup products, thank you.
7. Cat snobs
There is an overlap of people who insist on owning only cats and people who consider introversion a virtue. But come on, guys. Dogs are good, too.
6. Wine snobs
To possess real wine knowledge is an incredible skill, and one worth showing off. But if you can’t roll with a bottle of $2 Trader Joe’s wine, please leave my birthday party immediately.
5. Music snobs
Baby boomers and older millennials are guiltiest of music snobbery. What can we say? It’s a byproduct of reading Pitchfork everyday in 2007. In 2018, ragging on pop music feels dated and not reflective of where music’s currently at. The truth is that pop music is popular because it’s good and people like it. Now go listen to some Selena Gomez.
4. Cocktail snobs
Cocktail mixing is a cool, worthwhile hobby if you have the wherewithal to stock your bar cart with all the liquor and bar tools one could desire. But if you’re out on the town with friends who’d rather drink cheap beer, please don’t lead them to the nearest $16-cocktail bar. You will ruin their nights and their budgets.
3. Midcentury-modern furniture snobs
Thirty-something aesthetically-conscious homeowners of the world, please know that there are other styles of furniture in this world. That one West Elm couch that inspired a wildly popular takedown on The Awl? This is where our desire for Design Within Reach style on an actually-within-reach budget has gotten us. Maybe it’s time we looked to another era for decor inspo. The Cut says Memphis design is really big right now.
I, a Long Island native, am a self-admitted pizza snob, but even I tire myself out when turning my nose up at whatever pie’s on offer outside the tri-state area. In this respect, I am terrible, and I can admit it. But the truth is, most pizza is fine. It’s bread, sauce, and cheese — there’s little room for real error there. Just eat it.
According to one of the comments, this university is Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Carlton lives around the area and likes to hang around campus, enjoying the attention of students — though he’s not an official therapy animal.
Title aside, Carlton certainly has a compelling campaign slogan: “If I fits on the Board, I sits on the Board.” Considering that cats have been mayors, librarians, and train station masters, there’s no reason why Carlton cannot successfully serve on the University Board of Directors.
Of course, it would be wise to consider his policies: is he for or against the legalization of catnip? What are his feelings on emotional support animals being allowed on campus? Does he support equal opportunities for all felines?
One redditor, however, pointed out this formidable warning:
Stock markets are taking dives the world over — including here in Tokyo
Image: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
Repeat after me: The Dow Jones Industrial Average is not the stock market. The stock market is not the economy. And nobody should be treating short-term shifts in any of the above as fodder for their political fights on Twitter.
It was probably inevitable that Donald Trump would be ignorant of all this. After a month of tweeting (25 times) about a rising stock market that he falsely claimed the “fake news media” was ignoring, the president was silent during a multi-day sell-off that saw the Dow plummet from just over 26,000 on Thursday, Feb. 1, to just over 24,000 on Tuesday, Feb. 6 — the fastest drop, by percentage, in the index’s history.
This Wednesday featured a brief rebound into 25,000 territory, but the market’s increasing volatility was a sign of what was to come. Things got worse on Thursday, which saw another thousand-point drop.
Wednesday, of course, also saw what has to stand as one of Trump’s most nonsensical and monomaniacal tweets:
In the “old days,” when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!
The president has apparently taken to threatening global markets over a sell-off because he doesn’t think it tracks to his interpretation of the news. It’s hard not to see this the greatest example of the hubris of power since King Canute sat on a beach and told the tide it was making a big mistake.
And yet Trump’s legion of supporters on Twitter and on Fox News joined in. This was good sport. They cheered the stock market rebound on Wednesday as they might cheer the Patriots roaring back into the lead in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The Trump effect is real, they cried.
It is fascinating to listen to the financial prognosticators on Fox News Two weeks ago, trump was a genius for revving up the stock market. Last week, it was Obama’s fault that the bottom fell out. Yesterday, trump got it back on track today, it is the Democrats. Fake News.
There’s not much point in educating Trumpists on this score, but let’s give it a shot anyway. The stock market, in as much as it can be said to have a single mind, is not acting for or against the president. It doesn’t care about the health of the economy as a whole. If there is any one cause of the precipitous drop, it is largely in reaction to the threat of inflation, which may happen as a result of rising wages and low unemployment.
This is an ongoing global problem affecting global markets, it may well continue over the next couple of weeks, and it has nothing to do with Trump’s take on good (great) news.
So far so Trumpian. But there’s an equally disturbing development among many people who ought to know better. On the resistance side of Twitter, some users have taken the approach that if Trump is hurt politically by a stock market sell-off, a stock market sell-off must be a good thing.
Can we schedule the stock market collapse for the same day as Trump’s parade? I think that would be tight as hell.
It should go without saying that this isn’t a joke, and that making it one won’t endear the resistance to independents and others occupying the middle ground.
A stock market correction doesn’t just stick it to the president, Republicans and Wall Street fat cats. It affects your retirement, wiping millions off the value of 401ks. It affects pension funds — the world’s largest traders — most of all.
The fat cats have plenty of cushion; unless they’ve over-leveraged themselves, they’ll be fine. Your neighbor heading into retirement, not so much.
Donald Trump on a daily basis said the record stock market rally was due to him & his policies.
Will he own the stock market collapse a well?
I can hardly wait to see how this unfolds in the coming months as the Dow backtracks to 24k, 22k, 20k and worse.#news@realDonaldTrump
No president, no political party, owns the markets. Not even if they’re annoying you by taking credit for a rally. Not even if it would help your side in mid-term elections.
As we know too well, Trump has decided to define himself and his political legacy by opposing everything President Obama was for, whether he considers it good for the country or not. It would be a terrible mistake for his opposition to fall into the same trap.
In short, let’s be sanguine about the markets. They rise and fall in the short term, and steadily rise in the long term (just like temperatures in our current climate-changed world, in fact.) Stock market indices know no political party. They affect everyone in myriad unseen ways. And they will continue to do so long after the current King Canute has left office.
Redditor Dingingdonging posted a video of their cat, Gilbert, playing the classic cup game. They hid a small bell under a cup, and then shifted it around with other cups. Gilbert was able to expertly locate the bell each time, tapping the cup he thought the bell was inside.