Internet Memes: Sharing Cultural Ideas

Makankosappo performed in Japan by schoolgirls.
Danny Choo, via Wikimedia

Have you ever shared a funny video or picture over the internet? Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma look at internet memes, funny videos and pictures.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

A group of young women walk through a public area in Japan. Suddenly, they stop and gather in a circle. One woman stands in the middle. Another woman walks away from the group. She turns and holds up a camera. The group counts to three in Japanese. The women in the circle jump! They put their legs and arms out in front of them. But the woman in the middle does not jump. Instead, she closes her hand into a fist. She puts her fist on the ground. She acts like she is shouting at the camera. Her friend takes a picture.

Voice 2

This is a strange event to see. But it is becoming more common - in Japan and around the world. This picture is part of an Internet meme. The women will put this picture on the Internet to share with their friends. For many people, this picture will express power, fun and knowledge about electronic video games. Today’s Spotlight is on Internet memes.

Voice 1 

A meme is a cultural idea or behaviour. Richard Dawkins is a writer and scientist. In the 1970s, he first used the word meme. Dawkins believes that people communicate cultural information, or memes, in many ways - through books, speeches, signs, works of art and more. Cultural ideas are spread when people copy or tell others about a meme.

Voice 2 

For years, most people did not know the meaning of the word meme. But today, more and more people are talking about memes - particularly Internet memes.  An Internet meme is a cultural idea spread over the Internet. There are many different forms of Internet memes. Memes can be words, images, songs or even short films. Internet memes can spread quickly. In less than a minute, someone can share a meme with hundreds of people. They can e-mail it or share it on social media websites like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.

Voice 1 

The picture of the young women from the beginning of this program is a popular, global meme. It is called “Makankosappo”. This meme comes from an electronic video game series. Characters in this series use superpowers to fight each other. One of these powers is called makankosappo. Makankosappo makes people fly through the air - away from the person using it. Japanese young people began taking makankosappo pictures. The pictures look like a person is using the makankosappo power! This meme became very popular. And these pictures communicate a lot of information about Japanese culture and video games.

Voice 2 

Many internet memes use humor to communicate ideas. In the United States, there is a popular Internet meme called “Grumpy Cat.” This meme is very simple. Each one is a picture of a cat with words. In the picture, the cat looks very angry - even though it is not! People use the pictures of Grumpy Cat and add their own words. The words on the pictures communicate what the cat is supposed to be thinking. These words say things like “I had fun once. It was terrible.” These memes simply make people laugh.

Voice 1 

But people also use memes to discuss major, current events. In February 2013, there was a meteor shower in Eastern Russia. A large rock entered into the earth’s atmosphere from space.  It broke into many pieces and fell from the sky.  It was a frightening event for many people. It was also very unusual. Many Russians created memes about the meteor. One meme made a joke about the event.  It was a picture that showed the weather for Eastern Russia. In this image, there was no sun or clouds. Instead, there was a huge meteor! Memes like this helped Russians think about the meteor event. Instead of being afraid of the event, they could laugh at it. And they could recognize the rare and important event.

Voice 2 

Memes can also communicate the political culture of a place. In France, there was a famous political meme. It began in 2009, when former President Sarkozy was in power.  At this time, Sarkozy was not very popular. And he wanted to change the way people thought about him. So on the anniversary of the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’, Sarkozy released a picture of himself on Facebook. The ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’ was a major event in European history. The picture showed Sarkozy in a crowd standing by the wall.  Sarkozy wrote a comment about being present when the Berlin Wall fell. He hoped that this picture might help make him more popular.

Voice 1 

However, people began to question if the picture was real.  News writers reported that Sarkozy could not have been in Berlin on the day the wall fell. It was clear that the picture must have been taken days later. When people recognized that Sarkozy’s claim was false, they were angry. They did not like the idea that their government would try to fool them. So they began to create their own pictures. They used computer programs to add Sarkozy to pictures of other important events - events he was not at. These pictures became a very popular meme called "Sarkozy Was There". This meme was a joke. But it was also a way for the French people to express their lack of trust for the President.

Voice 2 

Internet memes can spread cultural information faster, and to more people, than ever before.  However, this is not always a good thing. When a person becomes part of a popular meme, it can be very difficult for them.

Voice 1 

In Canada, a young man named Ghyslain Raza recorded a short film of himself. In this video, he acted like a character from the Star Wars films. Raza did not want to share the video. But students from his school found the video. And they put it on the internet. This “Star Wars Kid” video became very popular. Soon, people began making changes to the video. Other people made their own versions of the “Star Wars Kid” video. The meme became very popular.

Voice 2 

But life for Raza became very difficult. On the Internet, people he did not know were making jokes about him. At school, people laughed at him.  And Raza had no way to stop it. He became very sad. Things got so bad that Raza left school. And he received medical treatment for depression.

Voice 1 

Internet memes can spread cultural information quickly and powerfully. But have you ever thought about the effects of sharing internet memes? What memes are popular in your country? Do you think these memes are positive or negative? Leave your comments on our website! Or you can email us at

Voice 2 

The writer and producer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The voices you heard were from the United States. You can listen to this program again and read it on the internet at This program is called “Internet Memes: Sharing Cultural Ideas.”

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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What memes are popular in your country? Do you think these memes are positive or negative?


Avatar Spotlight
jack shin
said on July 05, 2013

Hi everyone !

It’s one other interesting post from spotlight I’ve read.
I’d like to answer the question spotlightradio had made on the last of this article.

First of all, I’ve never thought and heard about what meme is, so i didn’t know until i read this.
i think we can see both the benefits as a good way of sharing cultural information between different country and the side effects of sharing it intensively. i believe everything in the world can be classified as a good or bad depend on how we use it.

In secondly, here is my answer of the second question from spotlight. yes, i think i’ve seen kind of meme which is similar with Makankosappo. but unfortunately i can’t find how the name is called. but let me explain about it. Male or Female stand, and he or she will raise someone up by using his or her upper body. and they take a picture or short clip of this position.

and the last answer, I believe that sharing cultural things in between different country help people who different each other better understand and communicate. but i hope that doesn’t go too far and hurt each other. yes, i believe meme phenomena has more positive effect than negatives of it.

I hope everyone enjoy reading this article.
and thank you spotlight as always.

Avatar Spotlight
Mss Flamboyant
said on August 18, 2014

It is an interesting topic. To me, everything has both sides and internet mese is not exception. It is the best way to share and update information. We can know about any cultures or knowledge which we need at anywhere and anywhen. But It will affect significantly if we do not censor about concept or anythings posted. So in the near future I hope that people will know clearly about this and use the internet more efficient.

Avatar Spotlight
Jimmy Roberto Espinoza Mercado
said on August 22, 2014

Hi friends! I want to say that the memes always have been spread in the world and not just on the internet. Throughout the years “the horns” has been the “icon” or “meme” that represents or spreads the act of unfaithfulness in marriage or in the couples. Despite that unfaithfulness may involves social, imotional, legal, ethical and even religious problems and sometimes destroys families, this behaviour is linked to a known wide meme that is called “horns” and sometimes is part of the humor or popular jokes. In Latin America, for example, “Poner los cuernos” or “To put the horns” means being unfaithful. Although there are many versions and places about the origen of this phrase, no one knows exactly who were the first ones that used it. Expressions like: “the great horned” or “the golden horned” or any other noun which has horns suggest the fooled person. This idea as a meme also has been spread through the art; many songs became very popular because their lyrics address this issue in a creative and humorous way, such “el santo cachón” or the Saint horned, sung by Los Embafadores Vallenatos and also “el venao” or the deer, sung by Los Cantantes, some years ago. Thank you!

natasoul's avatar
said on September 03, 2014

Hi my dear spotlight. Thank you for you wonderfull work for us. I adree that many people even did not know about word meme and I am one of them . so it is very important to know about other cultureand communicaion with each other. but sometimes it may be good experiense or bad , but all depends from our positive attitude to people and thing around us )))

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on November 09, 2016

There three memes popular (negative) in my country:
1- The cover of body and face of woman (called Sharshaf). It is a symbol of slavery of women under Islam.
2- Carrying and use of weapons, openly and brutally.
3- Chewing qat. Tree branches narcotic
God bless you

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on November 15, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Tuesday 15, November 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Dianna Anderson, and Ryan Geertsma:

At first, I want to thank you for bringing for us readers and learners of English more one great article, Thanks!
The rolezinho is very popular here in Brazil.
Rolezinho is a by appointment in which many teenagers make it on the internet to meet at the Shopping Center to have a particular party.
However, that action causes trouble to the stores, clients, salesmen, shop assistants, people, and etc. because those teenagers make a lot of noise.
So, they sing, they talk, they scream, they speak very loud, and etc.
Sometimes, It is necessary to call the Police officers by the manager’s Shopping Center to control the mess.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 20, 2016

With me , everything has both face and here internet meme is not exception .I think that , if your purpose is to share and update information the internet meme will has a help for you very much.

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 01, 2018

Hi! I looked for pictures with “Sarkozy was there”. These are so funny!

Avatar Spotlight
Jaime Velasco Ordoñez
said on June 01, 2018

My own opinion is the memes is part of the technology when is spread through internet and if we take use like we want do would be a good advantage but if that flees from our hands might be very harmful.