Meanwhile, we were also curious about what can give memes longevity, and whether a meme's relatability has something to do with this. According to Professor Geher, relatability plays a critical role.
“Relatability of a meme is also critical. Memes that lead people to say, ‘Oh, I totally get that—that is ME!’ tend to take off. I recently saw one that showed a stovetop and simply said, ‘You know you’re a real adult when you genuinely have a favorite burner.’ At 53, I have to say that I saw this and was like, ‘Heck yes!!!’ So yes, relatability is key for sure in terms of cultivating the success and longevity of a meme.” We fully agree with the professor on this (and many of us probably have a favorite stovetop burner by now, too).
Professor Geher noted that the term ‘meme’ itself actually comes from the work of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. In the 1980s, Dawkins “defined a meme as a unit of cultural evolution that has the capacity to replicate and spread.” Geher pointed out that the replication happens parallel to how a gene works. This “sheds light on the actual term itself—meme kind of sounds like gene!”
If you're interested in reading more of Geher's insights, feel free to take a look at the topics he covers on his Substack and Psychology Today blog.