Today marks the third anniversary of Ed Balls’ fateful tweet that caught the attention of the twittersphere, and gained him his own commemorative day: The official line is that Ed Balls was trying to Google his name and accidentally tweeted it instead. A relatively easy mistake to make you may think, but these gaffes are more frequent than they should be. From the uproar around the Tory beer and bingo advert after last month’s budget to David Cameron tweeting a dramatic picture of himself on the phone to Barack Obama, it seems like politics and social media may not be the best mix… But what is it about these simple gaffes that tap so much into the public psyche? No one can really say. Ed Balls hasn’t been the only victim of this unpredictable tide of online enthusiasm; many of the most common memes have seemingly mundane roots. Sometimes an unassuming photograph can spawn thousands of shares, each captioned differently but communicating the same underlying vibe. Other times a quote from a TV show or game can escalate out of proportion as the online community apply it to numerous different situations. We took a look at the few of the most popular online memes to see if we could figure out what made them so popular:
Type: Animal First posted: On a blog History: In 2010, a Japanese blogger uploaded pictures of their newly adopted Shiba Inu dog. One of the photos showed the dog with an unusual facial expression, prompting someone to post grammatically questionable captions all over it. How does it work? Doge is used to display cute, grammatically incorrect enthusiasm for something. The example below is intended to wish somebody happy birthday.
One Does Not Simply
Type: Film reference First posted: Something Awful forums History: This meme dates back to 2004, making it a vintage in internet terms. It is based on the scene in Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where the Council of Elrond are discussing plans to destroy the Ring. It was first posted on the Something Awful forums, with a Photoshopped picture of Boromir leaning out of a car window captioned “One Does Not Simply Drive Into Mordor”. How does it work? This meme is used to convey disbelief or lack of faith that an idea will work, and references Boromir’s doubts that the Council of Elrond’s plans to destroy the One Ring will work.
Bad Luck Brian
Type: Human First posted: Quickmeme History: Again originating in 2012 (a hot year for memes, it seems), Bad Luck Brian appeared on Quickmeme and Reddit before becoming immensely popular with the online community. Bad Luck Brian is dressed in questionable attire, which people associated with persistent (sometimes unsavoury) bad luck. How does it work? Bad Luck Brian is used to pose unfortunate situations that have befallen internet users, or sometimes just funny hypothetical situations. Some of them are a bit risqué, but the example below captures the essence of Brian nicely.
Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
Type: Human First posted: History: An unassuming photograph from a run in South Carolina caught the internet by storm when it was noticed that one of the runners was surprisingly photogenic considering he’d just run a long distance. The image quickly spawned hundreds of variations and captions. Below is the original, with the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy on the left: How does it work? Ridiculously Photogenic Guy isn’t used as much as some other memes to convey ideas, but is the basis of many one liners, such as the one below. From looking at these memes, it’s apparent that it’s impossible to predict which will skyrocket in popularity, and which will be ignored. It seems that simplicity is appreciated, as is usually some element of misfortune on the part of the person / people involved in the meme. Most of the time the subjects of the meme have no choice but to sit back and let the excitement unfold around them. Some of them embrace it: Bad Luck Brian and the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy have both done AMAs on Reddit (an open Q&A session with the community, stands for ‘Ask Me Anything’), some of them try to ignore it: What's your favourite meme, are there any we've missed that we should have included? Blog by Martyn Hudson