From The Atlantic: “Y U No Go Viral: The Emerging Science of Memes”

by | Posted September 24th, 2013


Memes and science. You never saw this one coming did you? There is, in fact, a science to trending memes. After becoming insanely sidetracked by meme websites such as Quickmeme and Cheezburger, I finally read The Atlantic’s article on the science of memes.

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“Relationship between the probability of retweeting a message and its similarity to the user’s interests, inferred from prior posting behavior.” (Weng et al.)

Scientists have found that memes act like genes where they ‘reproduce’ as they spread through a population and ‘mutate’ as they are interpreted differently by people. Research from Harvard University by Michele Coscia suggested that rather than memes that were shared a lot in a short period of time, memes that were shared on a consistent basis over a long period of time were more likely to reach the ‘success’ threshold.

Even more interesting, nowadays for a meme to rise to popularity another meme must “pass into obscurity”. These ‘more competitive’ memes were found to be more successful in the meme world overall. However, they also discovered that not only do certain memes rise in popularity “clusters”, but also “affinity groups rule the web”. This means that the more that meme lines up with someone’s interests, the more likely they are to share it. This is very obvious. But look they made graphs, it’s all professional and stuff.

Souce: Michele Coscia

Souce: Michele Coscia

While there is still no conclusive evidence to suggest why a certain thing will go viral, I believe it’s gotta have funny. That’s it. Mystery solved. If you want to read more about memes and where the heck the name ‘meme’ came from anyway, look no further than The Atlantic. Y U no click?! CLICK.