A meme is a picture with words on it?

ES: Our quality of life depends on recognizing we are agents of cultural adaptation. What we say and do matters. Looks can be deceiving, we are stronger than we think.

I recently overheard a coworker say that “A meme is a picture with words on it.” Understated. Every idea we have, word we speak, and action we perform has the potential to go viral just as this media format has. A meme loosely refers concepts that live in the mind or behaviors ┬áthat spread for whatever reason.

The word meme was patterned after gene, the basic unit of inheritance on the biological level. I guess changing the ‘g’ to a ‘m’ signaled that this was about the mind. Ask Richard Dawkins who coined the term. Genes and memes are similar but there is one huge important difference that is at the heart of my mission here.

Genes and memes spread: Some ideas spread with wild success. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book the Tipping Point, documents this. Chip and Dan Heath offer a framework for summarizing what makes ideas memorable in their book Made To Stick. As a member of a 7 billion strong human population, our genes must match our environment.

Genes and memes affect our behavior. Genes are our nature. Memes are our nurture. There is no sense arguing over which one has more of an effect on our behavior. They both do. My point is that we have conscious control over one: Memes.

Self-reflection and self-direction, consciousness and conscientiousness, mindfulness and right action: these are the stuff of memes. More than just funny pictures, they make this world a prison or paradise.