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The Use of Memes in Development Communication

Memes facilitate message dissemination.  They are just like commercial spots that attract the attention of people...



A meme is an idea, a behavior or style that stays in the minds of individuals and, eventually, modifies it. This tiny piece of information can take the form of a picture, an action, a sequence of words or an expression (e.g. Pres. Barrack Obama’s, “yes, we can!”). Memes are self-replicating patterns within a culture.  It makes use of our minds to be emulated.  It was the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins who introduced the term “meme.” In the book, The Selfish Gene (1976), he asserted that memes could spread like a virus, influencing people’s behavior.

In the field of Development Communication, a message/information that has been conceptualized to take the form of a meme may have the following advantages:

. A meme facilitates message dissemination.  A meme is similar to a commercial spot, the refrain of a song, an echo in a canyon. It grabs the attention of the people, provokes their curiosity, makes them ask the meaning of the meme itself by talking about it with other individuals. Thus, it makes it easier for the message to spread instantly.

. A meme offers a wider reach.  Since it is versatile and can take various forms, not only the internet can be used to diffuse it, but both the broadcast and print media can also be employed for its dissemination. So, a meme can reach the urban and the rural areas via the radio or television. People can read it on the newspapers, magazines, posters or billboards. A meme can be seen and heard even in the remote areas of a country.

. A meme provides an entertaining way to transmit a message. An information created and developed in a unique and entertaining way can positively impact its results. By using memes, people themselves do not realize that they are being influenced to do something or think of something in a certain way. The scope of the meme itself never becomes evident, only its effects can be observed later on

. A meme is easily associated with the message it represents. Every time people see or hear a meme, they would immediately identify and associate it with its message. In the long run, as individuals frequently hear and see the meme, its message would eventually stay in their head,  persuading them to follow it.

As a conclusion, acquiring knowledge of the nature of the memes and its evolving mechanism could assist development communication practitioners to realize the key to behavioral patterns and the creation of shared meanings between individuals. As Richard Dawkins asserted,  memes spread like a virus because…

when a meme gets stuck in your head, you are likely to repeat it, and repeat it, until you come to believe it. 

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