Meme forecast for 2012

By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  December 30, 2011

Memes: Success Kid

Sammy Griner, one of the guests at ROFLcon this year, is only four years old. Three years ago, he pumped his tiny fist in front of a sandcastle. His mother took his picture and uploaded it on her Flickr page. People began circulating the photo and adding their own pithy captions ("FOUND PORN/NO VIRUSES"), and Success Kid was born.

>> READ: "Top 20 Memes of 2011" by Eugenia Williamson <<

"I think some of the best stories [about meme origins] are people who don't know much about the Internet but who are simply roped in because their image got caught up in it," Hwang says. "If you think about Facebook, it's at once a platform for communicating with people and a huge repository [of content] for people to play around with — but a lot of people who post content have no idea it's a repository." More under-informed Facebook users uploading more photos to public galleries will result in more random people becoming photo memes, Hwang says.

One of these novices is a young Boston man whose mother snapped a picture of him wearing a backward baseball cap. Soon, people were captioning his photo with all manner of douchebag behavior, from borrowing your car to misspelling the word "library." He became known as Scumbag Steve. "He's a total bro and spends almost no time online, but he became the subject of this enormous meme," Hwang says.

Memes: Scumbag Steve
Of course, Scumbag Steve has his own Facebook page. So does Success Kid. These pages made it easier for their memes to take over. "This year, a lot of people got the hang of using Facebook groups as public galleries," says Brad Kim. "The more popular memes are marked by how quickly people organize the joke into a single-topic domain."

A good example is Pepper Spraying Cop. When a photo was published of UC-Davis police officer John Pike spraying peaceful students in the face with pepper spray, there was a Tumblr built within days to collect the parodies of it.

Hwang would love to have Pike speak at ROFLcon.

"He's on our list," he says. "I'm not sure if he's going to show up."

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