With the word “meme,” one thinks of a viral video or image or action that is picked up by the general public and explodes in popularity in use and recognition. Defined in the Oxford English Dictionary to mean “an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation,” the term was originally coined by Richard Dawkins to explain the spread of ideas and behaviors. In 2008, Sam Smith created a t-shirt design on LonelyDinosaur. Cut to the next year and the launch of Memegenerator, and the image he coined as “Philosoraptor” established itself as one of the site’s most popular memes with a dinosaur asking many, varied quirky questions that people could confront at any given moment.
Replicated through users on the Internet, the Philosoraptor meme exists in the realm of ideas because it exists for people to put forth interesting and potentially very intriguing questions that may not be asked in the way they are with the meme. Over the years, it has grown to present a wide variety of questions, all in a humorous manner, ranging from science to the naming of a color to hipsters. The Philosoraptor is part of a larger memeplex that involves a macro image over a simple background. Other examples of this Advice Dog, Insanity Wolf, and Socially Awkward Penguin. They each convey a short, simple message that pertains to the parameters of their respective meme.
As for the longevity of the meme, I believe the Philosoraptor will still be around for some time, asking us why actions speak louder than words even though the pen is mightier than the sword for some time. And it has the potential to grow beyond being humorous. Because of the open-ended nature of the meme, there is nothing stopping people from truly asking deep and thought-provoking questions. While it could still exist within the realm of humor, people can go on to ask questions about religion or science or politics or whatever else they can think of.
Meme theory is based around the idea of imitation. By observing what is around us, the different actions and behaviors of people become things that we can replicate and extend beyond its initial use. Dawkins even suggested that “all life evolves by differential survival of replicating entities” (Blackmore, 21). While replicating different acts can be considered required for different points in one’s life, like the handshake, what one must realize, though, about memes, is that they can be observed but not imitated. The act of perpetuating a behavior can be stopped if a person instead chooses to ignore it. For example, although the act of “planking” is popular, I have chosen to not participate in the act. The same can be said for the Philosoraptor meme: one may observe it and recognize that is there but choose not to make one of their own or actively seek it out.
So, as a final question: “If practice makes perfect and no one’s perfect…Why practice?”