The Age of Memes

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By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

“Have you ever thought about what it means to be a god?  It means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in people’s minds.  You barely have your own identity anymore.  Instead, you’re a thousand aspects of what people need you to be.  And everyone wants something different of you.  Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable (Neil Gaiman, American Gods, 2001).”

Humans are very visual with communication often using images to supplement the narrative power of written words.  “A picture is worth a thousand words,” says the old phrase and pictures dominate the modern world of digital communications.

The news industry is undergoing a transformation through digital communications and I think the most successful news organizations to come out on top of that transformation will be the organizations that are fully embracing the web, not the organizations that are trying to keep one foot online and the other foot in physical print.  As much as I hate to admit it, printed paper is becoming less and less practical and digital platforms are becoming more and more relevant as web culture is slowly expanding through its various influencers, conquering the media landscape.  Mobile phones, touch-screen music players, and tablets are the new remote controls of our society.

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Image Source: <https://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2416558/instant-messaging-to-overtake-email-as-biggest-digital-communication-platform>.

The ability to search for specific information has become just as important as knowing information and that is a powerful thing for the average person with no defining, exceptional skills.  Technology is an amazing equalizer that not only improves your own life but your ability to help others.  Of course, technology also has a dystopian element.  The so-called gatekeepers – the internet service providers, the search engines, and the speech platforms – now hold immense influence over the decisions of individual people.  I think the solution to that is more market choices for consumers as well as effective anti-monopoly laws from governments, but that leads us into a more specific political discussion.

There is no doubt that technology has improved lives for people all over the globe and internet access is a huge part of connecting people with products and services beneficial to altruistic endeavors.  Even comedians are utilizing the Web to spread short messages for quick laughs – “memes” as they have been coined.  Imagine how a person from the pre-industrial age would spread his idea to a million eyes and ears across just his own country let alone the world.  Today, one just has to post on Twitter and, if enough people see it and share it, instant pseudo-celebrity status (for about five minutes).

 

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Image Source: <http://www.vmagroup.com/digital-communications/>.

 

A computer (including a smart phone, a digital tablet, etc.) is a powerful tool.  It should be used to a society’s benefit rather than to dumb down a populace but perhaps I’m writing optimistically.

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