Exploring The Philosophy Behind Memes


Memes: You love them, you share them, and some of us even make a million of them a day. But do you ever really stop to think what the heck they even mean? But much more than that, memes usually carry layers of far deeper meanings that, in one way or another, reflect philosophical thoughts and norms of society. In this post, we will scratch below the surface to touch the philosophy behind some of the internet's all-time favorite memes, exposing intricate ideas lying under their easy veneers. Join us as we try to make some sense of how these snippets of digital culture both reflect and critique our surroundings, shaping our worldview one bit at a time.

What is a Meme?

The word "meme" is a neologism that was first brought into academic literature by British biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene, first published in 1976.

The Selfish Gene Original cover, with detail from the painting The Expectant Valley by the zoologist


This idea was minted by Dawkins for describing an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture, somewhat in the way a piece of genetic information passes on.

What memes have become today is pictures, videos, or texts that are transmitted virally online, changing in the process. From simple image macros to complex video edits, memes have become a central part of digital culture, a medium resonating for millions with little cost and thus having a curiously free-form effect on social interaction.


The Philosophy of Internet Humor

The memes can at first glance look like mere internet jokes, but very often, they explore high philosophical questions and make comments about life, existence, and society in a way relevant to their receiver in the digital era. They reflect our collective thoughts and societal trends, packing complex ideas into simple visuals or texts. By laughing at a meme about procrastination or the absurdity of daily life, people find a sense of commonality and community. These digital fragments of data seem like deep reflections of the collective unconscious of modern society—statements about the human condition in ways that are both humorous and thought-provoking.

Case Studies of Philosophical Memes

"This is Fine" Dog:



Originally from the comic "Gunshow" by KC Green, this meme depicts a dog sitting calmly in a room that is engulfed in flames, saying "This is fine." It's become a symbol of denial and resignation in the face of disaster, often used to comment on personal coping mechanisms or societal reactions to crises. This meme resonates with existential themes, illustrating how individuals might remain passive or falsely composed instead of confronting alarming realities.


"Distracted Boyfriend":

The 'Distracted Boyfriend' Photograph

This meme based on a 2015 stock photograph by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem features a man looking back at another woman while his girlfriend looks at him disapprovingly. It's widely interpreted as highlighting themes of desire, dissatisfaction, and the human tendency to always look for something better, neglecting current blessings. Philosophically, it rests on the ideas of fidelity, choice, and the grass always being greener on the other side, thus providing a humorous yet insightful commentary on relationship dynamics and human nature.

How Memes Influence Culture and Society

Memes do more than reflect cultural sentiments; they shape them. As viral phenomena, they are powerful tools for shaping public opinion and influencing cultural trends. Memes can spread ideas rapidly across the globe, making them potent agents for cultural transmission and social commentary. They often address topical issues, providing a platform for widespread discussion and sometimes even leading to social change.


As we've explored, memes are not just ephemeral bits of internet culture but are filled with significant philosophical insights. They are modern reflections of our world, offering both light-heartedness and a critical lens through which we can examine life's big questions. At Philosophy Memes Shop, we celebrate the depth and humor of these cultural phenomena. Browse our collection to find a variety of products, from apparel to mugs, that not only make you laugh but also make you think.

Remember, behind every meme, there's a deeper story waiting to be told. Explore, enjoy, and engage with the philosophy of memes, and let them enrich your digital dialogues and everyday life with our thoughtfully designed merchandise.

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