Internet Popularity, Memes, and Engaging New Media

In an instant, and you have the cyberworld looking at you. Someone has made a Wikipedia entry, you occupy the first 100 spots on a Google search, and your typical Internet experience is squelched by an onslaught of online communication.

More importantly though, is the answer to the following question: were you asking for it? We do know that the Internet has a way of generating unintended consequences. Any expectation of true security when delivering content through the Internet should be disregarded except under the most extreme of circumstances. With this expectation dissolved, one should realize that the openness of the Internet allows for all-comers when it comes to points of view on content – so what someone thinks is mundane and private may actually turn out to be hilarious and sensational. Thus, people have to be aware of the level of privacy they want and actually have when transferring information.

Sometimes we’d rather not be noticed (Star Wars kid), but sometimes we’d like to be (Soulja Boy). The process, by which something attains hyper-popularity via online mediums, is a pop culture characteristic of the fast-moving information age. Hyper-popularity is curious, even on the Internet, because digital information travels fast (closer to the speed of light than virtually any other known entity) and people hardly have any time to realize the infinite information stash that is available to them. In fact, there is so much perceived clutter scattered on servers and hard drives (a problem made exponentially complicated since they are networked to each other via the Internet) that it’s amazing someone could find any unique object at all on their computers.

All the more impressive that something as inane as the Hampster Dance website could attract so much attention in such a short time. While the most popular websites are built on a strong utilitarian function (i.e. Google – search; Yahoo – portal connectivity; Amazon – shopping; Myspace; social networking), many Internet memes are merely distractions the cut through day-to-day life routines. Some are pure entertainment, while others are unintentional entertainment.

It is no surprise that most Internet memes are humorous. Good jokes spread quickly throughout populations; comedy is apparently a natural human reaction to the reality of free, conscious existence. In offline mediums, people have to spread information by word or letter – the former is usually faster. Transfer of information can take years to move from one part of the world to the other. With online mediums, information transfer occurs fast, and the capability for hyper-population thus exists. Well-meaning people generally like to spread laughter, so when they come across something funny, they want to share it with everyone they know.

Memes expose the cutting edge new media engagement. What catches someone’s fancy is still this obscure concept that marketers across the world would love to pinpoint. Following a timeline of Internet phenomena can be quite enlightening when pondering such things – it wouldn’t be beyond a curious entrepreneur to examine as case studies the major Internet memes that have contributed to the overarching mass of online hyper-popularity.

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