Why Memes Matter

Why Memes Matter

BY Timmy | ICI & ShogunMay 22 · 7 min read

The Nature of Memes

Memes. Not just funny pictures on the internet. They’re the very fabric of our culture, the DNA of human interaction, and lately, it’s seemed that they are the driving force behind the biggest joke of all; the web3 industry. But… maybe that’s not such a bad thing?

Let’s cut to the chase: memes are far more than silly images shared for a quick laugh. They’re the cultural analogy of genes, evolving and mutating as they spread from person to person, generation to generation. And memecoins? They’re the inevitable offspring of this meme culture and the anarchic world of cryptocurrency. But before you roll your eyes and decide I’m just thinking into this too much, or before you dismiss all memecoins as “shitcoins,” give me just a few moments of your time, and I’ll enlighten you as to what memes really are and why they hold more value than you might think.

The Evolution of Memes

The Origin of “Meme”

Before we go further, let’s get a bit academic, (this will be short, I promise.) The term “meme” was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene.” Dawkins used the word to describe an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. He likened memes to genes, suggesting that they undergo a form of natural selection as they compete for attention and survival in the cultural ecosystem.

In the same way that certain genes thrive through natural selection, and others are culled by evolution, some memes seem to be timeless or constantly evolving, while others die out. In modern academic dialogue, a meme is often defined as an element of culture or system of behavior passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means. In other words, memes are the viral content of our collective consciousness.

Modern Day Memes

Memes have been around since the dawn of human communication. Think about it: the very first cave paintings were probably the original memes, shared among early humans to convey ideas, humor, or societal norms. Fast forward to the slightly more modern era, and we’ve got the likes of “Doge,” “Pepe the Frog,” and the ubiquitous, if not currently considered cringe and old, “Distracted Boyfriend.”

In the last couple years, especially accelerated by COVID, we’ve entered the era of meta-irony, and now finally, post-irony. Meta-ironic memes being something like “Bonk” (to be honest, a lot of you do belong in horny jail,) or the general return to using Impact fonts over various images. While post-irony is best described by something like the “Skibidi Toilet” phenomena, where despite what pretense it may have been made under, the majority of it’s consumers (young children) do not see the satire or irony in it, so to them, it’s just a regular, normal meme.

Satire and irony are a critical part of this whole discussion, but that’s a lengthy topic for an entirely other post. For those interested however, here are some the best explanations (and embodiments) of these terms from a YouTuber by the name of JREG: 1. 2. 3.

But back to our narrative for today; which is the common and fundamental misunderstanding of just what memes are. These are more than just viral images; they’re reflections of our collective psyche, shaped by the cultural currents of their times. So what does that mean for memecoins?

Memecoins: The Cultural Currency of Web3

Now, let’s talk about memecoins. In the grand tradition of memes, memecoins are a natural extension into the financial wild west that is web3. Just as memes convey cultural value, memecoins convey financial value through the same mechanism: collective belief. It’s easy to dismiss memecoins as worthless, but that’s the same mistake people made with Bitcoin a decade ago.

Remember when Bitcoin was just “magic internet money”? Well now $BTC is massive and well established, meanwhile another project has claimed the name Magic Internet Money ($MIM) in some blend of a post-ironic meme and a genuine attempt at innovation.

The Value of Memecoins

Bitcoin’s value isn’t in its code or its “use cases” (unless you count being a speculative asset as a use case). Its value comes from the collective agreement that it has value. The same applies to memecoins. They might start as jokes, but if enough people believe in them, trade them, and invest in them, they gain real value. The market cap of a memecoin might be built on a meme, but so is the value of traditional currency built on the collective belief in its worth.

Memes and Memecoins: The New Gene Pool

Here’s the kicker: memes, like genes, are inevitable. They will emerge in any human culture, at any point in history, because they are an intrinsic part of how we communicate and share ideas. The same goes for memecoins in the web3 space. As long as there’s a community ready to believe in the value of these tokens, they will have value. Sure, many, many memecoins are scams or ill-conceived projects that will inevitably crash and burn, as is true of any nascent industry. Remember the dot-com bubble?

“As long as there’s a community ready to believe in the value of these tokens, they will have value.”

Just because the vast majority of memecoins might be destined for failure in the end, that doesn’t mean they lack value as a whole, and as shown by $DOGE, some even have the potential to have actual staying power. As such, some will rise above the noise, driven by strong communities and the inherent value that memes provide. Memecoins are the financial manifestation of our meme culture, and as long as that culture persists, so too will the value of memecoins.

Comparing Memes to Cultural Movements

Let’s take a moment to draw a parallel between memes and cultural movements; humor me if you will. Think about the Renaissance or the Enlightenment. These periods were driven by the spread of ideas, much like how memes spread in today’s digital age. Just as the printing press revolutionized the dissemination of knowledge in the 15th century, the internet has revolutionized the spread of memes. Each meme is a tiny cultural revolution, a snapshot of collective consciousness that can inspire, entertain, and even drive change.

Memes as Social Commentary

Beyond humor, memes often serve as genuine and important social commentary. They can highlight societal issues, poke fun at political figures, or provide a platform for marginalized voices. Memes are a way for people to express their opinions and share their perspectives in a way that is accessible and relatable. In this sense, memes are not just entertainment; they are a form of digital art and activism.

Memecoins as Financial Commentary

Similarly, memecoins can be seen as a form of financial commentary. They challenge the traditional financial system and question the value we place on different assets. By turning a joke into a financial instrument, memecoins force us to reconsider our most fundamental assumptions as to what gives something value. Is it the technology behind it, the utility it provides, or simply the collective belief in its worth? The answer, as with memes, is often a combination of all these factors.

“…memecoins force us to reconsider our most fundamental assumptions as to what gives something value.”

$DOGE coin with a market cap of $24.7B and a daily volume of $2.7B

$DOGE coin with a market cap of $24.7B and a daily volume of $2.7B

The Risks of Memecoins

But let’s not get carried away with the romance of it all. Investing in memecoins is not for the faint-hearted or the uninformed. The landscape is rife with scams, pump-and-dump schemes, and projects with no real substance behind them. If you’re considering jumping into the memecoin game, do your research. Understand the community behind the coin, the story they’re selling, and be prepared for the wild ride that comes with it.

I myself, “TendermintTimmy,” am not a huge fan of memecoins, but I can’t deny the fascinating intersection of culture and finance they represent. They are more than just speculative assets; they’re a reflection of our collective belief systems and the power of shared narratives.

The Future of Memes and Memecoins

So, what does the future hold for memes and memecoins? One thing’s for sure: they will continue to evolve. The memes of tomorrow might be unrecognizable to us today, shaped by new technologies, cultural shifts, and the ever-changing landscape of human interaction. And memecoins? They will continue to ride the waves of these cultural currents, for better or worse. Memes are far more than just funny pictures. They are a fundamental part of human culture, constantly evolving and adapting. Memecoins, by extension, are a fascinating blend of meme culture and financial innovation. While the majority may be destined for failure, the underlying concept holds more value than most people realize.

Maybe most fascinating of all however, at least to me, is where in our cultural timeline memecoins have emerged, and what that means for their own future and evolution. While $DOGE has been around since before the meta-ironic era, (and in fact before even the ironic era,) the real blossoming and explosion of memecoins has happened lately, in the depths of this transition from meta-irony to post-irony. It makes me wonder what direction memecoins have left to evolve towards… Again, if you haven’t skipped this part, and it interests you, let me know and I’ll probably do a follow-up on this piece. I also recommend you check out JREG, linked above, for an engaging, if not at first confusing, video overview of these terms.

Closing Thoughts

So, what’s the takeaway here? Memes are far more than just funny pictures. They are the DNA of our culture, the viral content that shapes our collective consciousness. Memecoins, by extension, are the financial manifestation of this meme culture. While they may start as jokes, they hold real value through collective belief and community support. And as long as memes continue to evolve, so too will the world of memecoins. So, before you dismiss them as mere internet jokes, remember that they are part of a much larger cultural phenomenon. 

Surely there must be one DeFi project out there that understandings this?
How is it that we’ve come this far without properly dissecting this topic?
One way forward is fostering strong communities that bring about memes.
Genius are those that understand this, and are building around such a philosophy.
Until now, memes have been utilized, but not fully appreciated.
Near endless riches await in meme-land; simply have faith, and stick to your guns.

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