How would memetics operate in the current web environment?
At the present time, we can observe "memes" propagating
out of control, as in spam, virus hoaxes, endless "top ten" lists,
and so forth. (A computer virus should not be considered a meme
because it does not exist in the mind of the user)
The memes propagate in a similar way to the way that memes
propagate in day to day life. A person who receives a meme
from someone else, and finds it funny or scary or useful in some
way may pass it on. Normally this is limited by the time
it takes to verbally relate the meme to another, as well as
the delay time between hearing it and passing it on, but
on the web it takes only a second to transmit the meme on
to many others. The probability of a meme being passed on is linked
to whether the individual feels that others need or want to
receive it. Since the web makes transmission of memes much
easier, the threshold for passing on a meme is
lowered. Anything of passing interest may be forwarded on
impulse. Since internet social dynamics has evolved, that
threshold has risen somewhat, and individuals may consider
whether a 'meme' is really sufficiently urgent to pass on.
This 'numbness' to information tends to filter out all
memes except those of extreme urgency (or hilarity).
As a result, only memes which have an
immediate emotional impact tend to get forwarded.
Hence the effect of drowning out rational discourse with
hysterical political-action and virus-hoax emails.