Meme Christmas

Last summer we debated with someone whether memes exist — the Richard Dawkins’ concept that, because humans copy other human behavior, we thus store and transfer ideas, spreading cultural practices like genes until the winners evolve and replicate and become embedded in all of humanity. Certainly some ideas seem to unfurl and take hold — clothing such as ties for men and dresses for women in the West, the courtesy of saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes, and the winningest idea of all, God, who has survived for thousands of years as a concept in our heads relatively intact (Dawkins dismisses the idea of God, but that’s another story). Whether or not ideas can exist as large entities, or small atomic units similar to genes, is arguable, but they certainly get around.

So today, Dec. 25, if you turn on TV you’ll likely see memes in action: Jimmy Stewart looking crazily off the bridge in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or the glowing leg lamp of Jean Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story.” The radio will play the old Bing Crosby tunes your parents heard as a child. The replayed cultural clutter of Christmas is a series of almost-baked memes that are trying to take hold — God, remember, is the winner, so holiday carols barely 50 years old are still young in the meme game (Mariah Carey is about ready to break through with “All I Want for Christmas” … geez). In a few days these newly embedded memes will fade, before recycling next year, and we’ll return to even younger ideas, fashion (knee-high boots for women are everywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S.) or music (the damned Black Eyed Peas are still around and in February Madonna will play the Super Bowl). Newer baby memes will be born across the web in 2012, because the low cost of transmission on the Internet makes it a singles bar for shallow ideas to hook up; some advertiser will invent the next Old Spice hit, some other silliness will spread like cat videos via Facebook and Twitter.

And in truth, you’re likely trying to create a meme yourself. Please retweet me, you think. Take my creation or idea and share it. In all our hearts, we want our minds to live forever by becoming imprinted in all of humanity. Like the sex drive to mate, when we push out our ego-fueled thoughts, we are driven by lust unaware we really are a pawn in the race for human immortality. Wouldn’t it be great if once we’re gone from Earth, generations replayed our image/concept/blog post witticism forever, and we could leave knowing we shaped all of human thought?

All we want for Christmas is immortality. It’s a good idea. Pass it along.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Originally posted on Google+.

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