At some point along the way, the notion of ‘an inside joke’ was rechristened as the far more intellectual sounding ‘meme.’ A meme is a fancy term for a catchphrase, concept or joke form that pops up and spreads seemingly spontaneously among certain groups.
You’ve seen memes on line, even if you’ve never called them by that name. The LOL Cats have been an adorably-daffy theme for a long time. The Courage Wolf is a meme, and a damned manly one at that. Kanye West’s “I’mma let you finish” take-offs, the supered Hitler commentaries, the keyboard cat riffs: all of them set up an idea and then spurs a digital form of ‘top this’ that encourages people to jump in and contribute to the fun. As links spread through emails. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook postings, the virulence of these memes expands exponentially.
Which brings me, however circuitously, to explaining the attached photos of Steve. Steve is a two inch plastic elephant that our creative team found on the sidewalk outside the New Zealand airport when they first arrived last week. He has been quickly adopted as a good luck totem for this shoot, earning the title ‘the pachyderm of positivity’ and being featured in an ever-widening array of digital portraits. Over the past week, Steve has shown up everywhere they have: traipsing across a black sand beach, in the hands of Japanese tourists, on a deep purple cabbage in a field of produce.
The internet can be a magnificent source for information. But add the lighthearted sociability of social networks, and it’s suddenly a highly-amplified source for amusement and sharing. In a very human way, meme-ing brings meaning to life as people look for ways to connect with others through the social delight of creativity. A smile or a laugh is powerful currency in a social network, which is why any decent meme accelerates so quickly when introduced there.
And so, should the Steve the plastic elephant meme ever start trending toward ubiquity, I’ll be sure to name-check him in my Facebook update.