Internet culture is a place full of confusion, mindless humor, and interesting study. For one who is not familiar with the internet, internet memes might confuse them, maybe even scare them as plenty of new stories about “Millennial Humor” has proven. Those that casually indulge in memes by scrolling through their reddit feed in mindless entertainment, maybe even making them if they have the proper tools. Those who are more interested in the qualities of the memes instead of the humor take study of how memes start, grow, and how they succeed. Recently, the internet, more specifically Reddit, have been confused, and maybe slightly entertained by, the stone slab meme.
It sounds exactly as it is. The internet has made a joke out of the most trivial of things, and the internet is confused, subs of me_irl are confused, non-meme addicts are confused, and I am very interested and intrigued. This paper is going to explore a few things: What memes are, how the stone slab meme came to be, how it succeeded as a meme, how it is a very unique meme, and why the internet might be mindlessly letting the meme spread.
Memetics is the study of how thoughts and ideas spread to other minds, how fast they spread, and why they spread. A meme is not just a term that had its start because of the internet, it has been a study for years. The internet only helped it be a more mainstream idea. A meme is kind of like a germ or a virus; memes spread from mind to mind through verbal or visual communication just like germs spread from one person to another through physical contact. Although memes aren’t quite physical in the way that we can see their presence, they still spread, and they are still there. The one problem many people have with memes and memetics is that it is very abstract, and it is, but that is part of the interest.
So, how does this tie into the internet memes? The internet is the best petri dish for memes to grow, evolve, and spread. The ability to communicate with others at speeds unimaginable to those two decades ago allows for a sort of virality that bacteria can only dream of having. And because of this property memes have, the conditions memes must survive in is much harsher, as the competition us much fiercer. And because of that competition, the stone slab meme shouldn’t be able to exist in its current, viral form, yet it flooded r/me_irl in the course of twenty-four hours. The success of the meme can be credited to many things, but the main factor in it’s success is how it spreads and survives on its own: the meme is parasitic in nature.
A meme that is parasitic sounds quite idiotic at first, but the more you think about it, especially if you know about the meme, it makes more sense. The meme is a simple one, probably one of the simplest that has touched the “best posts” page of r/me_irl since the red square meme. It’s literally just a picture of a slab of concrete. Not much can be done with it; yes, you can add the occasional text saying something along the lines of “Upvote this so I can be on the front page” or “Free karma farm”, but beyond that, the meme is too simple for it to survive on its own beyond that. So it started depending on other memes to do the hard work for it. The meme inserts itself in as many other memes as possible and goes from there.
Another reason for the meme’s success is the context of the meme. The only reason why it’s funny, or has any success in the first place, is because Reddit knows that the slab isn’t funny. They know that the slab is the epitome of an anti-joke, and that is another reason as to why people just keep making jokes about it. Reddit knows it’s a bad meme, but because they know it, they keep making jokes about it, causing the meme to spread further and make it much more successful. In theory, it shouldn’t work, but in practice, it does.
The fact that the stone slab meme succeeds the way it does is quite unique. Even the memes that Reddit constantly compares it to: the nut and bolt meme and the red square meme, aren’t quite the same as this meme. The nuts and bolts meme had its origins very clearly defined: it was a new year’s joke, a picture of different coloured nuts with the caption “this is a 2018 meme you won’t understand.” So, the meme became on of the most forced memes r/me_irl had seen. It had very little context behind it, and that context that did exist lacked substance. But that meme doesn’t have quite the same qualities that the stone slab meme has. The nuts and Bolts meme didn’t jack itself into other memes, it was a meme that people played around with for a solid week until it died out. Overall, the only true similarities that the nut meme has to the Stone Slab is that they are both extreme cases of Anti-humor, which the internet seems to love yet hate at the same time.
Behind all this, the fact that the meme’s entire basis is anti-humor, the fact that the Stone Slab meme is a parasitic meme, and how the meme is extremely unique, there is still a lingering question. Why is it still alive? It really should have died out at least, at most it shouldn’t even be popular. My explanation for this is as follows: the meme is a commentary on how reddit will literally updoot anything.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist the chance to make you think I was just writing a very elaborate shitpost referencing a meme that got banned from r/me_irl a while ago. I’m not, and there is actual substance to that claim. The entire idea that sparked this analysis is how Reddit is keeping this meme alive because it is showing that Reddit and meme pages will make a joke of anything and they are willing to make anything popular if it has any sort of humorous value or has any sort of “elaborate context.” It’s sort of paradoxical, as it is a subreddit making a meme that is mocking reddit, which is being fed more and more and being made more and more. The joke that is mocking the subreddit for having bad humor is the epitome of itself by being bad humor, and its growing and growing as a meme.
And beyond that, I think that confusion is also feeding into the karma farm that is this meme. What it started as, I don’t know exactly. But wherever it started, it started as a shitpost that attracted upvotes because the people looking at it didn’t know what it was and they were looking for answers. Along those confused people, somebody came along and reposted it, as reddit does. From there, more people upvoted it in confusion, and it grew and grew until the meme could not sustain itself after people learned that it was just a tactic of karma farming. But it was widespread enough for meme producers to put it into other memes, mix and match until there was a meme that the stone slab meme could leach off of enough to get more upvotes. This, again, is an example of how the meme’s success being parasitic in nature is quite unique.
On the surface, the stone slab meme seems like an elaborate karma farm disguised as a meme and a joke. And that might just be what it is, but it is also an elaborate karma farming meme that is parasitic in nature and is a very unique meme in how it survives and thrives. This meme was a joy to explore and research; most memes nowadays are not quite as deep as this meme is, and coming across something such as the stone slab meme is nice.
I mean, me too, thanks.