— Tom Johnson saw one of hundreds of cat photos
circulating on the Web. Before long, he was taking
pictures of his own cat — with a pancake on its head.
Minneapolis man succumbed to one of the absurd Internet
phenomena (or memes) that have been whizzing around the
social media world faster than anyone can make sense of
meme is an image, a video, a phrase or even an idea that
catches on and spreads from one person to another for no
logical reason. Popular memes include bursting into
someone else’s photo, doing your own take on a viral
video a la "Gangnam Style," or, well,
balancing a pancake on your cat’s head. The weirder
the meme, the more copycats it attracts.
a fan of memes that are so stupid their humor has an
almost transcendent quality," said Johnson.
"They’re so hard to explain to someone who hasn’t
seen them, because they literally make no sense. …
They’re like inside jokes."
long as there have been photos, people have been
manipulating them. And we’ve been doing knock-off
videos since the first camcorders came on the market.
But social media have changed the speed and the reach of
images that used to get a laugh from a small circle of
friends or be the highlight of the family photo album.
ability to publish and share photos online allows us to
connect to one another in real time, transcending
geography," said Lisa Grimm of Space150, a
Minneapolis-based digital agency.
Colin Hickey, who helped develop a hot new meme,
"It’s a fun way to be a part of something bigger
than yourself. With the Internet, you’re able to share
a picture with someone on the other side of the world
doing the same thing as you."
being connected is only part of the draw. The chance to
be the next YouTube or Instagram sensation is driving
people to get more, uh, creative with what they do in
front of a camera. Here’s a look at a few of the
latest photo fads:
(verb): becoming an uninvited participant in someone
living in New York, the photobombing of tourists quickly
became a favorite pastime for Ashley Mattson, who now
lives in Minneapolis. Tired of slogging through throngs
of tourists posing for photos in Times Square, she
started jumping into the background of their pictures
and making goofy faces.
back on it, I feel kind of bad," she said.
"But hopefully they got a good laugh out of
Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is notorious for
hamming it up in the background of the weekly team
captains’ photo before each game. But humans aren’t
the only photobombers. Plenty of animals have had their
time to shine. In 2009, a Minnesota couple vacationing
in Canada was attempting to take a self-portrait when a
squirrel jumped in front of their camera. The image went
viral, making the little critter the world’s most
the president has been a victim. When Barack Obama
visited a school in Florida last fall, one amorous
little boy stole the spotlight. During a photo op with
the class, the youngster was pictured in the background
planting a kiss on the cheek of a classmate.
(verb): photographing people engaging in warm-weather
activities in a snowy environment.
went viral last winter after Missoula, Mont., resident
John Brownell posted a picture of himself drinking
coffee and reading a magazine in his robe outside, in
several feet of snow. Friend Colin Hickey saw the photo,
created a Facebook page, Frosters Anonymous, and
"the whole town jumped on it," he said.
"Families were going outside and taking pictures,
businesses were having frosting parties and the next
thing I knew it was huge in Germany."
have hopped on the frosting bandwagon. This New Year’s
Eve, Natalie Wilmers posed for pictures in her snowy St.
Louis Park back yard in a pair of jean shorts and a
bikini top. It was her first time frosting, she said,
but probably won’t be the last.
long are winters in Minnesota again?" Wilmers
(noun): a popular video or photo that has been changed,
added to and reposted to the Internet.
memes went viral because they were remixed, localized
and re-shared. Remember "Gangnam Style"? Who
could forget? The 2012 Korean dance pop single spawned
hundreds of parodies and knockoff videos on YouTube,
raking in more than 1 billion views.
popular remixes are of photos, not videos. "Texts
From Hillary" is a single image of a
serious-looking Hillary Rodham Clinton texting on her
phone. The photo has been reproduced with dozens of
silly captions and reposted. And reposted. And reposted.
memes are a manifestation of the remix culture that’s
permeating art, advertising and media right now,"
said Weber Shandwick’s Greg Swan. "Many discount
the impact on pop culture that (they) have, but I
challenge you to find someone who doesn’t know the
chorus of Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday.’"
(noun): Images and videos of cats, often accompanied by
looking cats. Babies laughing at cats. Cats playing
ping-pong. While cat memes aren’t new, they are
peculiar — and increasingly popular. According to
KnowYourMeme.com, cat-related media took a leap forward
beginning in 2006, with the growing influence of
websites like LOLcats and Caturday.