The book Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson (1992) brought to life the idea of internet meme causing viral reactions using the World Wide Web and eventually another platform.  Although we have not yet reached past the World Wide Web in 2011, the use of social networking with today’s children, adolescents and adults has caused a new phenomenon that was not present only five to ten years ago.

Internet meme is the use of the internet to spread a concept or idea.  According to Wikipedia,

“the idea may take the form of a hyperlink, video, picture, website, hashtag, or just a word or phrase, such as intentionally misspelling the word “more” as “moar” or “the” as “teh”. The meme may spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, news sources, or other web-based services.

An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, parody, or by incorporating news accounts about itself. Internet memes can evolve and spread extremely rapidly, sometimes reaching world-wide popularity and vanishing within a few days.

Their rapid growth and impact has caught the attention of both researchers and industry.Academically, researchers model how they evolve and predict which memes will survive and spread throughout the Web. Commercially, they are used in viral marketing where they are an inexpensive form of mass advertising.”

I personally have seen internet meme in action at the high school level, college level, and with grown adults.  An example from students in high school would be a recent incident with twitter and some of our students.  One student tweeted that a younger female teacher had been arrested on the school campus early that morning and was taken by police officers in handcuffs out of the building to a patrol car.  By fifth period, the original tweet had been hash tagged many times and went viral within our school building.  So much so that students were stopping by the front office to ask the principals and secretaries about the teacher and trying to find out what she had done to get arrested.  The reality was that the teacher was never arrested; she was not handcuffed or escorted out of the building.  She also was not fired, which some tweets implied.  The teacher laughed off the incident, but for half a school day students who are already easily distracted by media, were even more off task than normal with the simple use of twitter on cell phones during school hours.

At the college level students are also interesting to observe with internet meme.  A recent example is from Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s campus in Indiana, PA.  A graduate student accused one of their professors of make inappropriate comments about gays and lesbians in a class that the female student had in the business department.   Within twelve hours the students’ story was on the local news station and links about the story were being spread virally not only on IUP’s campus but regionally and nationally.  The ACLU was contacted, other students began to pop out of the woodwork about how they were mistreated by the professor, twitter and facebook sites began to follow the story closely.  In less than 24 hours, the story was being discussed with my husband and I when visiting my in-laws (not college students).  A former student was found that claimed he had also been bullied by the professor in the past.  He interviewed with kdka news in Pittsburgh via Skype with in a few days of the original story being in the news.    It is amazing how networked life is in today’s world.

Recently, adults were using the internet, texting, and email to spread word of a meeting of the Unity Township supervisors that would cause havoc for owners of horses in the township.  I don’t live in the township, but know many individuals who do and an ordinance was being proposed to limit horses on properties in the township.  The supervisors planned to pass this update quietly and discreetly, but the use of the internet and other technologies spread the word extremely quickly in 24 hours.  I received the following through a text, an email, and a link on Facebook.

“ALERT TO THE HORSE COMMUNITY

The Unity Township Zoning Board has approved a new proposal regarding horses as follows (excerpts). (The full ordinance language is attached.):

“8.  Limitations on Agricultural Uses in Residential Zoning Districts. Although the use of property for agricultural purposes is pemitted in Residential Zoning Districts, the following limitations shall apply…

b. Horses and ponies may only be maintained and/or housed or boarded on lots having not less than 20 acres.”

This would be a change from the current rule that requires 2 acres for the first horse and one acre each for each additional horse.  This change and others are likely to be approved by the Unity Township Supervisors at their November 10th meeting.”

The supervisors received phone calls, emails, individuals stopping by to visit them about this proposed change before the meeting even occurred. At the actual meeting there was a surplus of residents and concerned horsemen that showed up to explain their concerns with the proposed changes.   The following morning, a text and email came through around 9 am:

“Looks like we in the horse world have stuck together and won this round!!  Thanks to all of you who keep us informed of these issues!”

Followed by:

“The Unity Township Board of Supervisors would like to thank you for your comments.  The current zoning ordinance concerning farm animals & horses will remain in effect.  The proposed ordinance will not be adopted.

Thank you,

The Unity Township Board of Supervisors”

Five years ago smartphones were not event that common to own by the majority of the public.  There is a prediction that by 2020 that regular cell phones will not be in existence anymore.  Desk top computers are also going by the way side with laptops, tablets, and cell phones becoming the new way of using the internet for the majority of people.  It has become impossible for some individuals to have even a few hours with out internet or wireless connection let alone days.  The use of the internet and its ability to spread messages, concepts, and ideas has become an appendage to most Americans.

Internet meme – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 24, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_meme

IUP Professor Accused Of Making Homophobic Comments « CBS Pittsburgh. (n.d.). CBS Pittsburgh – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of Pittsburgh. Retrieved October 24, 2011, from http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2011/10/14/iup-professor-accused-of-making-homophobic-comments/

IUP Professor Allegedly Made Homophobic Comments Before « CBS Pittsburgh. (n.d.). CBS Pittsburgh – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of Pittsburgh. Retrieved October 24, 2011, from http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2011/10/17/iup-professor-allegedly-made-homophobic-comments-before/

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