How many of us remember coming home after trick or treating every Halloween and checking all of our candy with our parents to make sure it was safe? I would imagine that most of us did this at least once or twice under the wild assumption that nefarious people in the neighborhood may have put razor blades or needles in our candy. This idea has become a meme, transmitting itself from generation to generation, and it has shown its ability to survive in the world of transmittable ideas. Concerned parents have taught their children that they must check their candy before eating it, and eventually when these children grow up, they will teach their children the same thing. Ideas of booby-trapped candy will continue to spread as long as parents keep believing they are true.
This meme mainly exists and propagates as an idea. Although it can be transmitted from parent to child through behavior, such as a child watching a parent check the candy every Halloween, it is not so much the behavior being replicated as it is the idea. This meme is transmitted as an idea that Halloween candy could possibly have hidden dangers.
Richard Dawkins, a meme expert, has described the need for a meme to change and adapt for survival as variation. As the years pass, this meme has had little need to adapt and change for survival. This is due to the fact that Halloween occurs annually, providing the opportunity for this meme to survive through the ages. As long as children are collecting candy from strangers, cautious parents will be checking that candy for anything that could harm their innocent babies. This meme has had to face little variation since 1958. In an academic article related to meme’s, a man named Joel Best investigated every incident in which Halloween candy may have been used for more sinister means, dating all the way back to 1958.
This meme has proved that it is fit to survive in the realm of transmittable ideas. Why is this? As mentioned earlier this meme has a scheduled cue call every year on Halloween. The potential for this meme to die out is reduced dramatically simply because it is so strongly attached with a major holiday. Not only does this meme return on a specific day every single year, but it is taught to a new generation on that day by their parents. A new generation of children become carriers of this meme every single Halloween, and one day they will do the same thing to their children.
The idea that ideas can spread through generations in a similar fashion that genes do, fighting to survive among competitors, and adapting with changing times, is quite intriguing. This connection is hard to just turn a shoulder to, there is simply too much evidence that our ideas are acting in the same way as genes to deny. However society can’t fall into a state of thinking that every idea is a meme. Simply saying that something is a meme because it is a transmittable idea seems to be too broad of a concept. Many ideas that are transmitted from person to person are not necessarily memes, and this must be understood when thinking about memes.