Repetition is what makes things go viral. The effects of this dynamic are deeper than they appear on the surface.
How Ideas And Memes Get Solidified
How do ideas survive for generations? How do memes have effects on cultures around the world?
For an idea like Christianity to survive, it needs believers. Generation after generation of individuals who absorb the meme, apply it to their lives, and pass it on to their children.
Memes and ideas become codified through repetition. The Bible provides a well from which Christians draw ideas. Christians strengthen their faith through repeated reading of their holy text. Through repeated visits to church. Through repeated Hail Marys and sermons. Through repeated Sunday School attendance.
Islam is a meme that has extraordinary strength among its followers, because it mandates praying five times a day. There’s no judgment on religion here – I’m using it as an example because everyone grew up with religion or knows people who did.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
The more information is repeated, the stronger it becomes.
Nike – “Just Do…”
Apple – “Think…”
McDonalds – “I’m Lovin’…”
You finished each of those sentences without me having to. Because you’ve seen them over, and over, and over. Brand advertising exists to hammer these messages into your skull. Believe me, I’ve worked in the industry. Corporations will throw money at brand advertising every year – roughly two hundred billion dollars – without caring about efficiencies or ad quality.
Ever wonder why so many ads seem so terrible? Because it doesn’t matter what they say, so much as how many times they say it.
Americans will recognize this effect from GEICO ads. 15 minutes…
We Can Repeat At Historically Unprecedented Rates
If you’re a regular reader, you’re familiar with how the internet has changed everything. Anybody can write, anybody can publish. There are no more information gatekeepers. A quick web search will find you information on pretty much anything you want to know; and if there’s nothing found, you can write it up so the next person who searches will find you.
But there’s another effect. We have never been able to repeat information so quickly as we can now. My Twitter account has thousands of followers – anything I tweet or retweet is instantly delivered to thousands. Anything Obama or Trump retweets is instantly delivered to millions. And people who don’t necessarily follow those accounts will become exposed when the followers spread it among their own social circles.
We see memes spread throughout the country, and the world, in days. Think of something like “Damn, Daniel” – utterly vapid content that seemingly everyone was acquainted with in one week.
Think of how unique this is in human history. We used to repeat information by word of mouth – oral history. You’d get a game of telephone as the story changed from person to person. Then we had radios, the printing press, mass-market newspapers. But even then, a story in every newspaper in a country might not reach the other side of the world.
Now, we can repeat information – with perfect fidelity – across the world – in one second. It just takes one click of the retweet or share button to magnify it even further.
Rapid repetition removes all barriers to virulence. Think: have we fully processed what this means for society?
Christianity took hundreds of years to get to widespread adoption. Liberalism decades. Communism likewise. A big factor was how hard it was to repeat information with no censorship or loss in quality.
Now, there are no Romans to prosecute early Christians. There are no capitalists willing to jail communists. Burning books and killing prophets won’t do anything to stop their information from spreading online.
Kill a guy and you’ll only draw more attention to the information he created. That information can be spread, encrypted, around the world in seconds. More importantly, it can be repeated in seconds.
So long as information – a meme – is worth sharing, it will be repeated without any constraints. Globally. We’ve never seen anything like this, and we have absolutely no framework to deal with it.
Something – or someone – will spread a message globally that will totally change how we see the world, or how it operates. Followers will repeat it over and over, strengthening the meme. This has happened throughout history, but the conditions for the rise of that message have never been so easy. Think “Make America Great Again” on steroids.
Interesting times lie ahead. I encourage you to delve into internet subcultures, because they’re rising at rates we’ve never seen before. Increasingly, they’re being physically manifested too. One of them will go global. Keep an eye out.
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