Viral Memes

Viral Memes

Memes have become a dominant part of the modern web atmosphere, and also a new means of communication especially popular between millennials. Within my generation, memes are a accessible platform for forming bonds with people you would not typically associate with. Patrick Davison (2012: 122) defines it as ‘a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission’. They can be shared across the world from country to country, with comment sections on most medium so people can discuss and just generally enjoy the meme in question.

I have chosen to look at…

The aptly named ‘distracted boyfriend stock image meme’!

A seemingly innocent photograph taken by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem quickly turned into a viral earlier this year with people editing it into hilarious different scenarios. It involves three actors, the distracted boyfriend, the girlfriend, and the ‘other woman’. Some of the most retweeted from Twitter are shown below,



It is a stock image so its completely malleable, for anyone’s usage. As well as this, the fact that it is such an simple but effective image leaves room for people imaginations to run wild. This is the focal point of why this meme gained viral recognition and popularity in such a small time frame. These images particularly became popular with what would be considered the millennials on Twitter. All the concepts used require some level of intertextuality, and this schema can be easily activated. For example, the image has been replicated so that the ‘other woman’ is Jeremy Corbyn, and the ‘jealous girlfriend’ is Theresa May, with the boyfriend being the UK. Amongst many millennials is this shared sense of unity and idolization when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn, so this shared sense of unity works well for this meme.

Beginning on Twitter, these various memes eventually made their way to Facebook with many people finding them offensive. (Surprised? No?) Twitter is a lot more desensitized than Facebook, in my opinion anyway. It contains a lot of dark humour and taboo subjects which are commonly misinterpreted on Facebook – possibly due to age difference? Older generations are more likely to use Facebook and will have a completely different schema to a younger audience. I purposely showed my mother an example of one that could possibly be seen as offensive, or ‘wrong’. In which my mum predictably tutted at and questioned what was wrong with me. In comparison, I showed the same image to my younger sister, who thought it was hilarious and went on Twitter to retweet and ‘like’ it.

In terms of Davison’s point of manifestation, behavior, and ideal; I feel as though this meme fits into some of these categories in distinguishing why it became so popular, such as the ideal. And to conclude, the use of unknown individuals in a simple but adaptable situation portrayed through a single image leaves the audience able to think up of their own situations and create a completely original meme. Therefore, the chances of you seeing the same meme concept on this image is unlikely, and each time will be a new experience.


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