on May 09, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated May 09, 2014 at 6:09 AM
Now is the moment for you to create a meme.
A meme, if you don’t know already, is a viral sensation in the form of a video, image or animation that’s copied and shared, often with quirky revisions, across the internet.
The “Harlem Shake” video, and all of its copycats? That’s a meme. The phrase “Come at me, bro,” popularized on “Jersey Shore” and replicated in photos and animations? That’s a meme too. If you’ve wasted time surfing the web (and who hasn’t?), then you’ve seen your share of memes.
Today’s popular internet memes often arrive in a simple, easy-to-create form — essentially just an image with an overlay of white text in all caps, typically using a widely available font called Impact. You see these everywhere, especially on social networking spots, such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. If you want to get into the meme-producing business, start with an image and text.
You don’t need experience. In fact, apps and websites, such as InstaMeme and the imgflip Meme Generator, will make the process pretty much mindless (like the memes themselves).
Now, if you want to have a chance of seeing your idea turn into a meme — don’t think it’s a meme just because you post it — then you need to study the greats. You want to be a playwright, then you read Shakespeare. You want to be remembered for your memes, then you spend a lot of time at the website I Can Has Cheezburger? looking at cats.
Yes, cats. For reasons I don’t really understand, and don’t aspire to understand, an entire genre of memes is devoted to captioned cat photographs. There’s a name for this, lolcats, with the “lol” standing for “laughing out loud.” Grab a photo of a cat, slap on a funny caption in all capital letters (and use that Impact font), and you’ve got a lolcat.
Visit Cheezburger, or do a search for lolcat, and you will see photos of cats in all types of poses, with every expression, and captions like “I am evul cat — I will eat u up for diner.” Misspellings are pretty much required for locates.
But it’s not just cats. Visit Know Your Meme and Memebase, both from the Cheezburger Network, and you will discover memes of all types. A cup of black coffee, with this caption: “Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.” Yes, they’re often ridiculous and juvenile, but once in a while you stumble on a genuine LOL moment among the dreck.
Once you’ve viewed enough of these, it’s your turn to try to create your own.
Graphic design skills are not required. You don’t even need a computer. A phone will do.
With the free app InstaMeme, for the iPhone, you can use your own photo, or choose one from the app’s photo library, and then type your caption. The app automatically types in all caps, as is the meme fashion, and lets you increase the size of the text to your liking. The results look just like the memes you see at Cheezburger and elsewhere. A free app for Android phones, Meme Generator, works in much the same way.
If you would rather try this on a computer, visit the imgflip Meme Generator, a website for creating memes. You can upload your own image, or else choose from images used in popular memes. You can add text for the bottom and the top of the image, then rearrange it to the precise spot you prefer. As a default, the app uses the font Impact with white text and a black outline — the standard for popular memes.
Are these image memes the height of creativity? Certainly not. They’re not even the height of silly humor. But memes are a fixture of online culture, and for better or worse, they’re here to stay.