The image macro is perhaps the most well-known type of meme. You’ve seen it all over your Facebook wall: photos of cute felines saying dumb things (LOLcats), a socially awkward penguin (Socially Awkward Penguin), or an angry-looking kid wearing a fitted baseball cap (Scumbag Steve). They’ve been bled dry of all their novelty, and they’re just not funny or relevant anymore.
The bleak future of the Internet meme by @dailydot
This is a really good piece and it gets me thinking that perhaps there’s something else going on here.
Image macros are less interesting to The Internet for all of the reasons pointed out by continuants in the article above, but in my experience image macros also seem to be thriving among Black and Latino Instagram (two separate places, btw), Mom and Community Group Facebook (also two separate places), while also a staple of Brand Marketing on any and every platform that will accept an image.
Image macros also still seem to be a huge part of the internet experience in China, Brazil, Italy, and Arabic-speaking Africa. (maybe thecivicbeatglobalvoices can fact check this which I admit is based on personal interaction and not quantitative study.) For all of these communities, the image macro is still a way to share and connect around commonly identifiable experiences.
So I wonder if there’s an additional dimension to this that’s more akin to danah boyd’s observation of “white flight” from MySpace to Facebook back in 2009 [pdf]. tl;dr: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
The landscape of Internet Culture is evolving and the seeming decline of the image macro is a function of that. prguitarman makes a similar statement at the end of the dailydot piece about how the next wave of meme culture could look very different than Advice Animals. I think this is already the case in how meme culture functions if not how it looks. On Tumblr and Twitter we see this in reaction gifs and snowclones. In fandoms it’s shipping. Both rely on iteration of media and commonly experienced culture. Neither of these practices would exist without the behaviors experienced and learned through image macros. So thank you /r/AdviceAnimals. You have served us well.
jasonli: OMG I had this saved on Pocket and didn’t get a chance to respond. Sorry kenyatta! I only have one good data point from Hong Kong right now, and I can’t say for the other countries (my sense is that the countries you mentioned still have relatively a obscure internet culture subculture so it’s hard to know).
So anyway, in Hong Kong recently there’s been this super popular image macro creation app called WhatsCap (iOS, Android). And it’s on the rise. Funnily enough, it does not use Advice Animals but celebrities from Hong Kong movies and TV, random pets, anime characters, football screencaps (at least right now cuz it’s the World Cup), news screencaps and baby photos.
Anything to add globalvoices?