Elon Musk enjoyed a meme on Saturday poking fun at Jeff Bezos’ upcoming flight to the edge of space.
Musk commented “haha” under a meme posted on Twitter about Bezos’ flight. The meme shows Bezos talking to Musk about his flight, but with their faces superimposed onto Anakin Skywalker and Padme from “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones” – a popular meme format.
Memes are the language of the internet. And although some of them can be rather bizarre – ask anyone over the age of 30 what “yeet” means and they’ll look at you like you’ve grown a second head – there’s no denying that they’re often hilarious.
There are countless kinds of memes, but the kind that most people recognize are simply images with a line or two of text on them. These are also called “image macros,” and they’re incredibly popular.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of apps out there that will help you make memes. Here’s a roundup of the best, along with short guides on how to use some of them.
How to make a meme using a picture
This is the easiest method. Any app that lets you put text on pictures will do here.
Some of the easiest to find and use are:
Paint, formerly known as MSPaint, comes preinstalled on all Windows computers.
Just open the image you want to turn into a meme in Paint, click the “A” icon in the toolbar at the top of the screen, and click the spot on the image where you want to have text. You can also choose your font and text size from the toolbar.
Once you place your text in Paint, however, it can’t be edited. So if you make a typo or mistake, you might need to start the whole thing over.
Unlike Paint, Adobe Photoshop is a premium app that you usually need a subscription to use. But it has an immense amount of features that’ll help you in your meme-making quest.
Load your image into Photoshop and click the “T” icon on the lefthand toolbar, then click anywhere on the image and start typing. The options at the top of the screen can help you pick the font, size, style, and more.
Also unlike Paint, once you’ve placed your text, you can double-click it to edit it. And the Move tool (the very first icon in the left toolbar) will let you move, shrink, or enlarge the text however you like.
Clicking Type and then Panels at the top of the screen also gives you access to a number of menus that’ll let you add effects and styles to your text.
And of course, feel free to edit the picture itself however you like using Photoshop’s powerful tools.
As soon as Mematic opens, you’ll be given several default meme templates. You can also select Free STYLE if you’d like to make an entirely custom meme format.
Pick one of the default memes, or upload your own picture. Tap Captions at the bottom to add text, another image, or a watermark. Background lets you change the picture’s size and placement, and add filters or color corrections.
Once your meme is complete, tap Export and then Save. Your meme will download into your phone’s camera roll, where you can view or share it like any other picture.
Imgur is one of the biggest photo-sharing sites on the internet. And one of the ways they keep users around is by offering fun tools like the Imgur Meme Generator.
Head to the Meme Generator, and you’ll be given two options. Select a default meme will let you pick from dozens of popular meme formats to make a picture with, while upload new background lets you pick a new picture to write text on.
Once you’ve got a picture selected, you can add text anywhere. If you don’t want one of the text boxes, just delete everything inside of it. Use the small green arrows on the bottom-right corner of each text box to move and resize it.
When you’re done, give your picture a name and click make this meme!
Your meme will be uploaded to Imgur, where you can save it to your computer or just share the link.
How to make a meme using a GIF
Tools for editing GIFs are a bit more limited. But you can still do it easily on your smartphone or computer.
GIPHY is a company and app dedicated to making and sharing GIFs. They offer a free app for both iPhone and Android devices that lets you turn any GIF on your phone into a meme.
Download and open the app, and then create an account (or sign in if you already have one). On the homepage, tap Create in the top-right corner.
Your camera will turn on, because on this screen, you can take a video that will then be converted into a GIF that you can put captions on. If you’d rather use a GIF that you already have saved, however, tap the icon in the bottom-left corner.
Select the GIF from your photo library and upload it. Once uploaded, tap the Aa icon to add text. The other icons will let you add filters and stickers.
Press the right-facing arrow, and you can share, save, or upload your completed meme.
Kapwing is a video-editing website that gives users powerful editing tools for free. You can use it to edit photos, videos, or GIFs. Note that to use all its features, you’ll need to be on a computer, not a phone.
Head to Kapwing’s Meme Maker and click Get Started. On the page that opens, upload a GIF by dragging it into the window or by clicking Click to upload.
Once uploaded, it’s time to start meme-making. Click Text in the top-left to add captions, but also check out the Images, Audio, and Elements options. These will let you add picture-in-picture images, sounds, and shapes. They’re great if you want to make a truly wild meme.
When you’re done, click the arrow next to Export Video in the top-right, and then Export GIF. Your GIF will process, and you can then download or share it.
How to make a meme using a video
Video memes are great for websites like YouTube and Twitter, which support and play videos natively.
Just like we explained above, Kapwing supports all types of files, including videos.
Simply upload your video and edit it the same way you would a GIF. You can add text, audio, and more. And if there’s a section of the video that you don’t want, use the timeline at the bottom of the screen and the Split option to trim out whatever you like.
Professional video-editing apps
Adding text to a video isn’t a complicated process. Any dedicated video-editing app (Adobe Premiere, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, etc.) has a text option.
If you have a video-editing app installed on your computer – iMovie is free for all Mac users, for instance – explore the app to find its text-editing or captioning feature. If you can’t find it, look up a manual online. It’s probably hidden in plain sight.
Even the website for the streetwear brand and creative agency, where you’ll see much of the merch mentioned above is sold out, is a play on the gossip website TMZ, filled with satirical articles and ads.
“Sometimes we’re not even sure if it’s going to connect with people all the time,” said Nick “Stove” Santiago, one of the brand’s millennial cofounders. “We’re trying and having a good time with it. And it works.”
Work it does. Pizzaslime has gained traction among Gen Z and DJs alike, appearing on influencers Emma Chamberlain and Addison Rae and on Diplo and Skrillex. While Pizzaslime found cult fandom in its early days, cofounder Matthew Hwang said it exploded during the pandemic thanks to the rise of TikTok, where Pizzaslime has 1 million followers.
The merchandise line, founded in 2013, has acted as both a sly observer and ironic commenter on political, economic, and cultural moments that have gone viral. By offering an implicit critique on media consumption and internet and celebrity obsession, the merch itself tends to go viral.
In 2020 alone, the clothing side of Pizzaslime raked in $2 million in sales, peaking in April, according to screen shots verified by Insider (they declined to share total business revenue overall). That’s a lot of stonk for a brand with only two employees: the 33-year-old Stove and 34-year-old Hwang.
The pandemic has only thrown up more memes for Pizzaslime fodder. “When all the WallStreetBets stuff was happening, it was energetic,” Stove said. “Me and Matt were waking up at six in the morning to text each other about stocks. Like we were in it, you know, it’s real and authentic to us. And that was the [thing] we thought would be funny to make.”
The result: a typically Pizzaslimish graphic tee featuring a mashup of things easily identifiable by the young and internet-savvy: the logos of Reddit, WallStreetBets, and Gamestop; a fat pile of money; a stock board; and Elon Musk’s famous tweet, “Gamestonk!!”
Pizzaslime’s success has propelled them to new ventures: the launch of a record label with Diplo last spring, their New York Fashion Week debut in February, and an expansion into film television. At the center of it all is the internet.
The art of meme fashion
Stove and Hwang met as coworkers, doing marketing and creative direction at a music management company, but not all their merch ideas fit the artists they were working with. So they decided to make T-shirts for themselves, wearing them backstage at concerts or events, and the entertainment crowd gravitated toward their designs.
As they tell it, the Kardashians were wearing Pizzaslime’s Gucci-Versace-Louis Vuitton mash-up at a Kanye West concert. “Kris Jenner just turns around, and is like, ‘I love that shirt,'” Hwang said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, OK. Let us contact you.'”
These organic moments of “being in the right place at the right time,” as Santiago describes it, put Pizzaslime on track to being the internet-savvy brand it is today. They count the Gucci-Versace shirt as their first big streetwear hit. Since then, their merch has flown off the site, from their Crocs collab that repurposed the shoes into crossbody bags for $300 to their “Stop looking at my” line, famously worn by Billie Eilish.
Pizzaslime has tapped into the emerging trend of meme fashion before the powerhouses caught on, with major players from Balenciaga to Maison Margiela now in the space, Morgane Le Caer, content lead at global fashion shopping platform Lyst, told Insider.
“Virality has become one of the key factors in determining the success of fashion products,” she said. “What matters to younger consumers is what captures their attention and has the ability to spread like wildfire across social networks – and this is exactly why meme fashion is so popular.”
Santiago was hesitant to use a buzzword like “authenticity” but acknowledged he couldn’t find a better term. “There’s a real rawness and authenticity to what we do,” he said. “We aren’t afraid to make a statement or post something and lose 1,000 followers.” He added that this caught on with Gen Z because it relates to authenticity more than his own generation, which he finds a bit more susceptible to marketing.
“It’s hard to define what Pizzaslime is,” he said. “For some people, it’s sort of like a barrier of entry they find confusing. At the same time, it’s given us the ability to build all these verticals and do everything and try everything.”
But that’s not to say Pizzaslime lacks strategy. “We’re not just sort of like throwing darts to the wall,” Santiago said. “The strategy really comes in with like, OK, now, how do we present the idea? How do we get this out there?”
The power of being undefined
Pizzaslime’s greatest strength is its lack of definition.
The verticalization allows them to move in all sorts of spaces differently. The work, Santiago said, is figuring out how all of these verticals intertwine to fit into the Pizzaslime ecosystem.
“We don’t have to think like a traditional clothing brand because we also act as an agency and we’re developing TV shows,” he said. “It’s just all feeding each other and having a division for that, so what we’re really doing is building our Willy Wonka factory.”
While the internet informs and inspires its creative decisions, it also helps them figure out what sort of strategies and mechanisms they want to try with clients like Crocs or Paramount Pictures for their marketing arm. Santiago likened it to a proof of concept – trying things with their own brand, only to apply those discoveries to the agency side.
Building out these verticals has put Hwang and Santiago at full speed. When asked for some of Pizzaslime’s key turning points over the years, they took pause.
“We’re going like a billion miles per hour because we’re doing so many different things at the same time,” Santiago said. “These are interesting reflection points where like, ‘Oh, right now I feel like I’m slowing down and processing this.’ It’s hard to pinpoint those moments because I’m always onto the next thing right away.'”
That they are. They’re currently working on a TV project that Santiago described as an “internetty” version of “American Idol,” all while collaborating with Amazon on a new animated TV series called “Fairfax.” And the first song of their record label, they said, just crossed 75 million streams on Spotify.
They plan to start plugging more into the label, looking at how they can tie music to products and build trends through products and sounds on social media, such as incorporate music from their record label into their TV show or collaborating with artists to put merch on Instagram. “If we’re working with a client and they want to make a TikTok campaign, we have the record label and the ability to make that TikTok song also a real song released through our record label,” Santiago said.
While they’ve been approached by venture capitalists, they said they’re taking the time to find the right strategic partners that would help scale up Pizzaslime.
“We want to jump into spaces and places that don’t have strong internet voices or tones like we do,” Santiago said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if you can find Pizzaslime skincare at some point. “We want to do some pretty unexpected stuff.”
“My kids have had a pretty progressive upbringing,” Joanna Schroeder told Insider. “So it was pretty shocking to me when I started looking over their shoulders to see that there was some really disturbing content showing up on their Instagram feeds.”
Schroeder, a parenting writer from Los Angeles, was troubled by the photos and videos being recommended to her two teenage sons on Instagram. “There was alt-right and borderline Holocaust-denial stuff, memes, showing up on there,” Schroeder said.
While Schroeder was shocked and appalled, the abundance of far-right content on the photo and video sharing platform is well-known to researchers.
Instagram has allowed itself to emerge as a fertile ground for extremist propaganda, experts on extremism told Insider.
“Instagram is actively pulling its predominantly young users down an extremist rabbit hole,’ Imrah Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, wrote in an email.
The rabbit hole, in some cases, leads to kids being introduced into neo-Nazi groups. So much so, in fact, that Instagram has become the primary platform for far-right groups to recruit vulnerable teenagers in recent years, several experts said.
‘A premium on recruiting youth is really standard’
Instagram has become the “platform of choice for young Nazis to radicalize teenagers,” according to the UK anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate’s annual report. Neo-Nazi groups are using it to prey on vulnerable young people and sign them up to their extremist causes, the report said.
In the past year alone, Hope Not Hate found that two violent far-right groups have used Instagram as their primary mode of recruitment. The British Hand and the National Partisan Movement – two UK-based extremist groups – actively recruited teenagers on the app, the study found.
Three teenage boys, all alleged to be members of The British Hand, are now facing trial on terrorism charges.
Similarly, in the US, a neo-Nazi group’s presence on Instagram led to two young men’s arrest. Both were involved in the hardcore, white supremacist Iron Youth group, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
One of the young men had shared Instagram posts urging fellow group members to kill Jewish and Black people, according to a court document.
“The idea that white supremacists and other far-right extremists would put a premium on recruiting youth is really standard,” the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism’s vice president, Oren Segal, told Insider. What is novel, he said, is how neo-Nazi groups are skillfully utilizing Instagram’s functions.
“Extremists never miss an opportunity to leverage their hateful ideas through the lens of the latest technology,” Segal explained.
Memes are an effective way to cloak more sinister views
The focus on visual media and the abundance of young users makes it “a great platform to push far-right propaganda which is stylized and punchy,” said Hope Not Hate researcher Patrik Hermansson.
The punchiest way to garner attention from young people is through memes, Hermansson said. “Memes are easily consumable and they are funny and they’re easy to share,” he added. “They spread quickly and it exposes a lot of people to them.”
Memes are also an effective way to cloak more sinister views under a layer of humor or irony, Hermansson said. “The humor makes them easier to swallow,” he added.
Some of the more inoffensive memes use characters popular with the alt-right – Doge, Pepe the Frog, Cheems – to articulate controversial sentiments.
“What many extremists have learned is that explicit expressions of hatred may not attract as many people as more subtle references,” the ADL’s extremism expert said.
“It’s a tried and true technique of how to win hearts and minds,” Segal added. “You don’t hit them over the heads with the hatred. You sort of slow roll that process.”
‘Instagram’s algorithm leads users down rabbit-holes’
The “slow roll” process, which gradually introduces youngsters to more troubling material, is enabled by Instagram’s algorithm, say experts. Liking a seemingly innocuous meme can, in turn, present the teenager with more radical content.
Schroeder saw this process unfold when she began to monitor her teenage sons’ Instagram use.
“A kid might like something edgy, Pepe the Frog or something, and that triggers the algorithm,” she said. ‘That then sends them tumbling down into anti-feminist, racist, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazi type of content.”
While the Instagram algorithm is relatively opaque and constantly evolving, it is known that the Explore page is a curated page of recommended content. The content is chosen “based on an individual’s historical interactions,” according to social media marketing company Later.
Liking content relating to any form of misinformation – election, vaccination, or race-based – leads to anti-Semitic and extremist content being promoted to the user, it found. “Instagram’s algorithm leads users down rabbit-holes to a warren of extremist content,” the study said.
“Instagram’s algorithm actively seeks out individuals who have not yet engaged with the extreme or radical accounts, but who have characteristics that the algorithm determines may find it appealing and then serves it to them,” Angelo Carusone, president of the right-wing watchdog Media Matters, told Insider.
He believes that directing younger users to problematic users makes Instagram a recruiting sergeant for extremists.
“Instagram isn’t merely hosting the content; it is actively building extremist movements by recruiting new adherents into the fold and connecting them with like-minded extremists,” Carusone said.
Direct messaging can lead to ‘grooming’
The DM feature allows users to send a message to any other use of the app and facilitates sending messages en masse aiding the indoctrination process, said Hope Not Hate’s Hermansson.
“They [extremists] can directly get in touch with people and say, “why don’t you join my group?'”
This can lead to “grooming,” according to far-right researcher Miro Dittrich. “You see 30-somethings talking to 14-year-olds and kind of grooming them for the far-right ideology.”
It’s particularly hard for social media platforms to police private messages unless a user reports them, Dittrich noted.
While it is hard to moderate direct messaging, experts believe that moderation generally is insufficient on the apps.
“There’s the question of how long viral content can stay up on the platform and, therefore, be exposed to a lot of people,” Hermansson said. “On Instagram, it appears that it’s too long. We see recruitment accounts for fascist groups that stay online for two months.”
Instagram faces an even bigger challenge in spotting and removing harmful content published on Instagram Stories. The feature allows users to host videos for 24 hours before they disappear from a user’s profile.
“I think they definitely have a problem with Instagram Stories,” Dittrich said. “A lot more of the content that violates the terms of service is shared via Stories. I think that’s a really hard space to moderate.”
When accounts are locked, the content reaches fewer people but has less chance of being reported. “Accounts among the neo-Nazi radical front usually have a locked account, so it’s not easy for people to flag stuff. Only the inner circle is allowed in these spaces,” Dittrich added.
Parents have to warn their kids
Every expert Insider spoke to agreed that Instagram needs to speed up the moderation process and removing the odd post isn’t enough.
“You can’t just take down one player or delete one picture someone posted,” Dittrich said. “You have to analyze and see that this is a network that all post content that leads to offline violence and do a systematic takedown.”
Insider asked Instagram about its policy on extremist content but it did not respond to the request for comment.
The responsibility isn’t entirely on Instagram, Dittrich told Insider. It also falls upon parents to be aware of the sort of content that their kids are consuming.
Hermansson agrees. “I think the solution to these issues comes down to the parents and schools because they are the closest to the kids,” he said. “The more you know about the terminology and language of the far-right today, the easier it is to see the signs.”
Schroeder, who has taken it upon herself to learn how to protect her kids, said: “It’s like teaching your kids to swim or teaching them to dial 911. They have to learn critical media skills, and they have to learn how to sniff out propaganda.”
But it turns out that the Facebook CEO likes some of those memes more than others.
In a Clubhouse chat on Thursday, host and venture capitalist Josh Constine asked Zuckerberg how he feels about his meme-worthiness and whether he has a favorite.
Zuckerberg’s response: a now-infamous, 32-minute long Facebook Live video from 2016 where he publicly and repeatedly professed his love for grilling meats.
“Probably, if I had to go with a favorite, I think it’s gotta be ‘smoking meats,'” he said. “I do love grilling and cooking, and that was silly, and I appreciate that everyone enjoys it.”
In the video, which has been viewed a total of 11 million times, Zuckerberg streams live from his backyard as he gleefully slow-cooks brisket and ribs while getting ready to watch the US presidential debate between then-candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Zuckerberg also repeatedly confessed his affinity for Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce during the 2016 livestream, prompting Constine to tell him Thursday: “If you ever quit your job as Facebook CEO, you have a great sponsorship deal lined up for them.”