The idea of a meme was introduced by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, in his book The Selfish Gene. He conceived memes as being the cultural parallel to biological genes and considered them “selfish” for being in charge of their own reproduction and thus, serving their own ends; scientifically, once memes enter your brain, they work like parasites and grow on their own. In other words, memes carry information that is replicated, transmitted from person to person and they have the ability to evolve.
In modern day terms, memes have taken on a meaning of their own (probably another ‘selfish’ trait) and have become a social media phenomenon by taking on a variety of forms within cultures, such as an idea, skill, behaviour, phrase or trend. They function in a similar way to the “selfish gene” – they are transmitted from one person to another, are often replicated and disseminate information (albeit with a twist).
According to a research by Forbes in 2018, the average Millennial looks at 20 to 30 memes a day (the numbers have only increased since). According to the Global Web Index, 54% of Gen-Z, 41% of Millennials and 21% of Gen-X look for new memes every day. Perhaps because of this very reason, many brands have incorporated memes into their social media advertising, as a way to stay relevant with their audiences.
Fanta, however, say they are the first to launch their own meme exhibition show called The Rungful Nation.
This meme exhibition show dropped its first episode on July 4, 2022. Each episode lasts five- to six-minutes and is hosted by rapper, comedian and influencer, Ali Gul Pir, along with guest judges Danish Ali, Faiza Saleem and Haris Awan (all comedians and influencers), who are tasked to judge the entries based on originality and humour. Each episode features three to four memes of about 6,000 entries received – and according to Danish Ali, the content has to be “funny and most importantly, original. I want to see something I could not have thought of myself.”
Danish Ali says that his experience as a judge has been refreshing. “It’s fun to see other people come up with memes for a change, instead of myself.” In his opinion, it is enlightening to see the depths to which Pakistanis can go. “Watching these videos, I realised that Pakistan is a lot bigger than I thought. The range of thoughts is really very wide. I was under the impression that people would think in a certain way, but seeing these memes coming from all over Pakistan, I realise that these kids have different and individualistic creative thoughts.”
So far only three episodes have been released on digital platforms, including YouTube and Facebook, along with promotions on Instagram. Fanta have also incorporated on-ground activities. Kudos to Fanta for taking such a ‘colourful’ initiative in these stressful economic times and as Danish Ali says, “memes are a way to humanise things and to rationalise the current world.” He adds, “memes are now literature. They have become a subculture – they are not just jokes, they have become opinions and a way for people to process things that are happening to them and the world around them.”