The web. Video streaming. Social media. Three things that run on the Internet. And three methods through which I increasingly find myself seeking entertainment.

As someone who attempts to ‘curate’ the best of the web I’ve seen each week, I noticed that memes feature heavily in these three mediums. They make me smile and, more often than not, I stumble across them accidentally, through related links or someone else’s blog post on a subject unrelated to memes. By the time a meme hits social media, it’s already full-blown. So I was interested in how they start and what makes one thing a successful meme and something less successful. But this blog post isn’t about that, specifically. It’s about the discovery of memes and what they do for me – and for others, too.

Obviously, the 4Chan imageboard/messageboard is responsible for creating many of the well-known memes. And continue to do so. Recently, Tumblr has been responsible for hosting a number of photo-based memes involving Keanu Reeves looking sad, or pictures of Tom Selleck photoshopped alongside a waterfall while eating a sandwich.

I don’t often frequent either 4Chan or Tumblr, but as I’ve pointed out, I come across memes a lot. And usually before they’ve gone mainstream. It helps that I work in the advertising industry, mostly on the digital side of things. This enables me to mine a vast number of clever people’s blogs and brains in order to find this stuff. Sites such as Twitter have helped to make collection easier. And it’s cut down on the amount of RSS feeds I have and the email newsletters I subscribe to.

But it still feels serendipitous to find a link to something funny, something to make me smile, via this medium. Why? Given that Twitter only allows for 140 characters, it means that links are ‘captioned’ in such a way that they give no idea of what lies ahead upon clicking.

It also means that other people can quickly add to site – be it Photoshop Looters, Selleck Waterfall Sandwich, or Sad Keanu – and build upon the original idea. And with hashtags, memes that are simply based on text are starting to get traction. The idea of an internet meme is evolving.

But what is at the centre of all this is felicity. Yes, happiness. And smiles. And nothing makes me smile more than something I’ve stumbled across completely accidentally, something I may never have seen had I not clicked a link or opened a friend’s email, or read a particular RSS feed among the several hundred I seem to be subscribed to.

There is no other point to this post, other than to say that I hope it continues. Because at the heart of all this is a human desire to laugh, to be happy. At least it is for me. With so many other sad or inhumane things happening around the world – and the final news item no longer being a human interest story that is lighthearted – life can quickly become more of a slog than a bunch of seemingly unrelated and interesting experiences spread over a (I hope) long time.

So, to serendipity and smiling. Long may it continue. And with the internet still yet to even scrape the surface of its potential, I’m confident it will.

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