Falling for a Meme

We are bombarded with memes every day. We usually know how to spot and distribute them, but what does it mean to fall for one? In this short post, I explore the dank and furious world of people who fell for memes. Everything is a meme there, especially the belief that everything is a meme.

Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can't help falling for the meme.
Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling for the meme.

First, let’s define the word “meme” so we are all on the same page about its meaning. In Merriam-Webster Dirctionary it is defined as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”. On Internet, however, we tend to think about memes in terms of pieces of media we can communicate with – text, images, sound, video – limiting its meaning to just text of this distributed content. However, memes can serve different kinds of purposes and, besides latent integrative function of their distribution, others may be hidden behind the content as well.

In some places, memes are recognized as something you can fall for – a trick you can foolishly believe in or a scam that uses you in some way. The trick can be planned or not, but mistake of falling for a meme is always the result of stupidity of the one who falls for it. If the meme was just a spontaneous product of the community, a poster can be ridiculed for taking the meme seriously and not realizing it was just a meme. But memes can also be products of planned memetic marketing and falling for them in this case implies gullibility. It’s an easy and dirty tactic of well poisoning by associating an argument with a funny meme or an ad in disguise that makes it a powerful trolling tool.

Unfortunately, you were serious.
Unfortunately, you were serious.

“Falling for a <meme name> meme” is itself a meme, which makes it a meta-meme. But wait, it gets even more meta when someone falls for the “everything is a meme” meme. I decided to look for this falling for memes business on 4chan’s /g/ – Technology board and see what are the worst memes to fall for.

Why /g/? In “Mapping the Fags of 4chan” post, I expressed an opinion that on /g/ “technology” usually means “consumer electronics and software”. Usage of the meta-meme is rampant in discussions about products because every meme can serve as their advertisement. The same way that memes expressing political opinions can be viewed as part of political campaigns. This isn’t necessarily so, but there is always a possibility of practices such as astroturfing, which attempts to gain popularity and credibility by creating fake grassroots movements.

Catalog of threads on /g/.
Catalog of threads on /g/.

This time I took the data from Rebecca Black Tech Archive, which has a great /g/ archive. I searched for posts containing both phrase “fell for” and word “meme” and grabbed the names/descriptions of memes in between using regular expressions. This seems to be the most common form of the meme – greentexting or just typing “tfw/he/you/I fell for <meme name> meme”. I didn’t look for “falling for”, “had fallen for” or other variations. Later, I removed articles at the beginning of meme names and descriptions, made everything lowercase and did a couple of other formatting tricks in order to include very small differences in text strings properly.

From 4492 results, this is the list of top 25 memes /g/entoomen are accused of falling for:

Top 25 results.
Top 25 results.

As expected, almost all of these are technology-related “memes”. The most frequent one is falling for “the meme” with 549 occurrences (12.22%), a generic one obviously used when replying to another post and referring to whatever meme it was about. “SSD meme” follows with 125 occurrences (2.78%), then “Linux meme” with 114 (2.54%), “16 GiB RAM meme” with 112 (2.49%), “AMD meme” with 93 (2.07%) and so on… “Meme meme” is the simplest version of the nested meta-meme, and it got to the top list with 33 posts (0.73%). Here’s a graph without the ambiguous top result:

Top 25 memes /g/entoomen are falling for.
Top 25 memes /g/entoomen are falling for.

In posts I parsed, posters accused each other for falling for all kinds of memes ranging from “the girl meme” to “computer science meme”. When someone is told they had fallen for a meme, they often respond with “fell for ‘<meme name> meme is a meme’ meme” or “fell for the ‘fell for the <meme name> meme’ meme“, and if someone responds to that post by adding another layer of meme to fall to, the thread can be derailed by comments consisting of nested “fell for the meme” memes that can be quite complex.

About 4.99% (224) of data are these ironic nested memes divided into 161 variations. Almost everything that was labeled a meme has its counter-argument of labeling the belief that it is a meme a meme. I wasn’t up for manually deciphering and counting these arguments and counter-arguments, but if somebody wanted to see how much each group from the top 25 list gets baited into replying to “fell for a meme” posts with the same rhetoric.

This particular meme shows us what is and how often attacked in argumentation by comparing it to a meme on this board, implying the user who posted something positive about it is either gullible or ignorant. 677 (15.07%) of results were posted by original posters (OPs) when creating new threads, which suggests those threads were started with goal of starting flame wars by explicitly attacking specific product or idea. Are those OPs trolls, paid shills or fanboys? It’s hard to tell based on this alone.

In any case, now we have a list of /g/ “memes” ranked by their notoriety. If you had already fallen for a meme from that list (I know I did), now you know how often people will respond to you in this way when you post about your memeware.

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