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The Death of the Meme: an Essay

By Noah Stern:

Hey Milking Cat readers, it’s your boy, co-editor Noah Stern. I decided to write my first article for The Milking Cat on a subject that is very near and dear to my heart: memes. Everyone 35 and under already knows exactly what a meme is, so there is no need to define memes. But there is one unavoidable truth when it comes to the modern era of memes.

It is a truth akin the fact that all NFL players will end their careers with irreparable brain damage and die earlier than they should. As much as you enjoy memes like you do football games, you can’t help but realize that the very memes and/or players that you derive entertainment from are dying younger and younger every year. Yes, this article will focus on meme lifespan, and why memes are dying faster and faster now than ever before.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term “meme lifespan,” hello! How is third grade treating you? A meme’s lifespan is how long it lasts while still being funny. Thanks to the internet, a meme technically will never disappear, but it can be considered “dead” once almost nobody considers it funny. A good example would be the Harlem Shake. Anyone who finds that funny anymore is an idiot so that meme is dead.

To put current meme lifespans into perspective, we need to look at some very early memes in order to get a sense of their lifespans.

This is the first known meme. Obviously, its original meaning has been lost to the sands of time. But, anthropologists have been able to roughly translate it to “When you looked everywhere but Koarg was sitting on the remote the whole time.”

For all intents and purposes, this meme still holds up to this day. So, how did memes go from being basically immortally hilarious to becoming completely stale in a matter of days?

Well, the most obvious reason is inflation. As more people have the ability to make memes, the more memes flood the market, and the more memes are available to the public. It’s simple supply and demand; the people want more memes, and now that there are so many memes, they consume them faster than ever before. I have never taken an economics class but I’m pretty sure this is how the Great Depression started. Please refer to the chart below to see the statistics of the meme economy.

As you can see from the graph, meme trends are fairly volatile throughout history. The red line represents the availability of memes. Availability being defined here as how many memes are on the market combined with the relative quality of the memes. The pictures shown are some of the most popular memes at the time for context.

Obviously, the accessibility of painting supplies was very low in 3000 B.C., so there were very few popular memes.

They hit a slight peak in the 15th century with the most popular meme being far and away that little messed up Renaissance baby. Unfortunately their popularity promptly declined after Pope Urban VII outlawed memes before dying of malaria 12 days into his reign.

Then, as we can see, memes began a massive rise around the time of American independence, thanks to the U.S.’s robust industrial capitalist economy. This is proven by the fact that the most popular meme of this time was, of course, the Louisiana Purchase.

The next major event was the invention of the Internet. This incredible new supply of memes coupled with an interconnected meme development force meant that memes hit their all-time high in the mid-2000’s. Along the top of the meme plateau are two of the most recognisable memes, troll face and Rick Astley’s hit soul ballad “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Unfortunately, as with all great supplies, demand steadily increased as well. The memes kept on coming and coming. There are more memes being made now than at any point in history. The problem with this is that the public’s insatiable demand for memes has caused even the greatest images to be chewed up and spit out within a matter of weeks.

As we move into the Big Chunguses of the world, one trend is clear: Memes are living for less amounts of time. Cave paintings and Renaissance Baby will always be funny, but even mentioning Big Chungus in public anymore is a death sentence.

This is the inconvenient truth us modern internet-users must deal with. We may have more memes than ever before, but, in the long run, our memes will live less and less. We can only speculate how far the drop-off after Big Chungus will go. I hope we can save it, but as of right now, I have literally no solutions for you.

To tie this bad boy up into a neat little bow, I must go back to the incredible NFL analogy I made at the top of this article. We now have more football than ever before: Thursday Night Football, Saturday College Football, NFL Sundays, NFL RedZone, Monday Night Football, hell, even the AAF. But, the more football we watch, the more we realize that all of those players are probably going to die in their mid 40’s or something. Womp womp.


Cave Painting: “Ancient Cave Drawings | Rustic↬★↬The Wild, Wild West↬♞↬Old World ↬✠↬ It's Home Decor Done .......... ℳℽ Ẅåℽ | Pinterest | Cave Drawings, Native Art and Ancient Art.” Pinterest,

Renaissance Baby: Misener, Jessica. “35 Medieval Reactions That Will Never Stop Being Funny.” BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed, 9 Nov. 2018,

Rick Astley: Sloat, Sarah. “The Scientific Reason Why 'Never Gonna Give You Up' Endures, 30 Years Later.” Inverse,

Troll Face: “Trollface.” Know Your Meme, 4 Mar. 2019,

Gangnam Style: Jakarta Post. “'Gangnam Style' Dethroned as Most-Viewed Video on YouTube.” The Jakarta Post,

Big Chungus: “Big Chungus.” Know Your Meme, 10 Mar. 2019,

1 Comment

Apr 30, 2019

Ummm... I find the Harlem Shake to be very funny and topical. I take offence to this article and propose a boycott on all of Noah Stern's articles until he apologizes for his hurtful and uncalled for words.

P.S. I only read the first few paragraphs, but feel that is enough

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