Some people can’t get enough attention. We as a race try so hard to stand out. We wear ridiculous clothes and say stupid things all in the name of attention. Everyone likes to be noticed, and what better way to get noticed, than forever capturing a moment in time where you stole the show. This is exact goal of a cultural meme called the photobomb.
Everyone does it, people of all backgrounds and all ages. This behavioral meme can be annoying, funny, and sometimes even embarrassing, but for some reason people love to photobomb. A classic photobomb is an otherwise normal photo that has been ruined by another individual who was not originally supposed to be in the picture. Photobombing
has evolved well beyond this initial definition. Now a days, a photobomber tries to make a statement. Elaborate schemes include wearing costumes, undressing, or doing something equally as ridiculous to grab attention. The most ideal photobomb is accomplished without informing the photographer so that the photobomb is a surprise later on. Strangely and somewhat counter-intuitively, it’s seen as an accomplishment if a photobomb goes unnoticed. How much attention can someone grab while being as unnoticeable as possible?
As Susan Blackmore points out in her book, The Meme Machine, a meme is an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, especially imitation. The photobomb is an incredibly easy meme to imitate. You see someone taking a picture, just look up and make a funny face. Congratulations, you’ve done it. This makes the spread of the meme almost instinctual for some people. It also helps that it has become a game of sorts for others. It is considered funny to photobomb someone, equivalent to pranking them. It’s funny to spot a photobomb in a picture and lastly, the photobomb is popular because, as previously mentioned, people love attention. We strive for it in almost every part of our lives. Photobombing is just another outlet for satisfying that desire. All of these reasons are why the photobomb has spread, as well as why it is particularly popular with young adults.
The photobomb is practically a memeplex in and of itself. There are endless ways in which someone could perform a photobomb, and any number of memes could take place in a photobomb. Perhaps the countless ways in which different memes spread across every aspect of our lives is the most exciting aspect of meme theory. All of the cultural cues and references come together to make up one big picture that we can all similarly interpret, understand, and imitate despite our entirely different backgrounds. It is interesting to liken all of human culture to the slow gradual evolutionary process of natural selection. If you step back it makes sense. The more people imitate a meme, the more likely it is to spread, and therefore, the more likely it is to survive. If it isn’t imitated, it dies off. That’s it, and there isn’t really a way of getting around it. One possible objection to this claim is that memes can’t be ‘real’. There is no way of pinpointing exactly what a meme is if by nature it must change in replication. Almost all memes in this sense are more or less philosophical methods instead of cultural elements. Personally, I say that’s nonsense and a photobomb is a photobomb, no matter how you look at the picture or the reasons and ideas behind it.
So get out there and keep photobombing kids, cause these memes aren’t going to further the evolution of culture in our society by themselves.