The difference between a meme and a viral

A viral is the same piece of content that is passed from person to person. The content is 'static'

e.g Vanilla Ice Sorry


A meme is an idea/piece of content that is remixed and passed from person to person. The content is 'fluid'.

e.g LOLCATS


Memes are superior because they usually have a longer shelf life as people can keep changing them and the peer who passes them on can help effect the content and has a vested interest in the outcome.

30 comments:

Tannie said...

One of the things that I've always perceived as the main difference is whether you can track the source or not which can sort of tie in with this because it is the lack of having a start base that can cause the message to change through communication so much thus making it a meme.

The curious thing though is that via your definition there is the possibility to create a meme campaign. Obviously containing an ever changing campaign that is out of your control may be near impossible however the point is there is possibly the option.

One thing it raises though is that some previously known meme's would become viral under this definition. The most prominent of which I believe would be 'So i herd u liek mudkip'.

Julian Cole said...

Hey Tannie, nice add on. I think that there is examples of successful branded memes - The Gruen Transfer created this in the way they have the 'Create an Ad' project. There was a piece of content people were asked to create their own remixes.

Alright Tannie, I hadn't heard of 'So I herd u liek mudkip' but could not understand Unclyopedia entry. Spill the beans on what the meme is?

Tannie said...

The interesting thing about Mudkip is that it sort of actually falls under viral from both our views. Now I've only heard the story passed on so the base story could be considered a meme as it may have changed through retelling.

Basically the story goes that some kid at school had a mudkip plush and went up to some mentally challenged kid and went 'So I heard you like mudkip?' because he had been told so. Then the mentally challenged child takes the mudkip plush and starts thrusting into it.

But from there it began. Pictures of mudkip kept showing up saying 'so I herd u liek me?', people would ask people the question when they didn't know about it just so they could laugh at the responses and so it sort of spread. It's probably more limited to anime/manga people but most people around that sort of area would know about it now.

It did go quite big though, a few years back deviant art actually changed every single users avatar to a mudkip for april fools.

So while it may have been plastered on a few different images here and there the core message was also the same.

So yeah not quite sure how it falls into the meme/viral set.

Julian Cole said...

Okay, it makes sense now. Funny thing is, I am just writing a post at the moment on 4chan (Anime community forum board) and there are so many of these small nuances that you do not pick up at the time. I will look out for mudkip from now on! ;)

Ben said...

Hi, first time here. Nice post. Personally, I think trying to establish definitions for things like memes and virals misses the essence of them.

Tannie said:
"The curious thing though is that via your definition there is the possibility to create a meme campaign."

You should take a look at:
http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Forced_meme
and
http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Milhouse

A branded meme = fail.

But that's ok, because fail = funny.

Matt Moore said...

The Coke & Mentos thing was a meme (using JC's terminology).

Virals are basically ads that you want people to pass on. They are broadcast.

Memes are actions that you want people to do. Memes don't have to involve lots of creativity - they can just be a straight copy - but they involve something more than the forwarding button.

And people can memehack your viral - which scares marketers a bit because no one likes things take out of control. N.B. You actually want to encourage people to f*** your s*** up.

The way that memes work is a lot closer to the way that actual viruses work (hello swine flu) in the real world than so-called virals. RL viruses are successful because the mutate rapidly & frequently.

Matt Moore said...

Ben - The question is best phrased:

"how do you feel about people hacking the stuff you make?"

"are you encouraging them to hack it?"

There's the other issue that the majority of virals/memes will fail (again that's something we learn from looking at viruses in the real world).

In which case, quantity matters more than quality - (which turns traditional ideas of production values and costing approaches on their head).

You want to be like a turtle - lay many eggs knowing that most of your offspring will die before they reach the water...

eunmac said...

I have a different way of defining viral and memes.

Put simply - 'Viral' is the road, and a 'Meme' is an object traveling so fast and long on that road that has reached popular culture.

'A Viral' is a phrase that gets misused by the advertising industry as a whole. Let me explain: Viral is the effect, the action, the phenomenon that happens when a social object (yes, sometimes a meme) is passed. Also "viral" requires the passing to MORE than 1 person as an average, or it is not viral. The traffic cannot be attributed to a media buy - it is a transaction that occurs between people using their own methods of communications. This may be one2one or one2many.

A Meme is content that has been passed in a viral manner and become part of popular internet culture. A Meme can be a catchphrase, an image, a video etc. Being fluid might be one of its properties but it is not mandatory.

A good history of popular Meme's can be seen here:
http://www.dipity.com/tatercakes/Internet_Memes/embed_tl?fs=1

IMO Anything that is not a "Pop-culture Meme" but has seen some sort of viral effect is better described as 'a social object' not "a viral"

Just IMHO!

~ @eunmac

returnon said...

Regarding your earlier post on social media academics and the types of community affiliation, a meme seems like a great way to engage a customer pool. Like a Prius drive in timelapse showing the mileage and fuel consumption over a long distance trip, inviting Prius owners to submit their logbooks' greatest hits.

Memes can also propagate parasitically off a viral campaign's spectacular failure. Witchery - Man in a Jacket has been copping video responses and parodies all over YouTube...

Jye Smith said...

Memes. The freedom and power to create and recreate, and evolve the fuck out of it. Memes 4eva.

Craig Wilson said...

I like this. Nice simple explanation with examples.

Tiphereth Gloria said...

Best explanation I've seen so far. @eunmac has good point about the viral being the road. Viral in the sense that its used today by advertisers and marketers is really well differentiated in your post.

davidgillespie said...

@eunmac took the words right out of my mouth. I agree with Ben where he says branded meme = fail, because its important to note things like mudkip, All Your Base etc. are born out of cultures that naturally exist already.

The same way Taylor Swift is currently played on pop radio even though she is a country artist, hundreds of memes exist within these communities that never reach a tipping point that allows enough base knowledge of the subject matter to spread wide enough to make it appealing to the masses.

Again back on @eunmac's point, viral is a property, not the type of the content. It's important to keep that in mind.

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