A meme is a cultural element, typically in the form of an image, video, piece of text, or a combination of these, that spreads rapidly and widely across the internet. Memes are often humorous or satirical and are shared and modified by users, evolving as they spread. The term “meme” was coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene,” where he used it to describe an idea, behavior, or style that spreads within a culture.
Key characteristics of memes include:
- Virality: Memes often go viral, spreading quickly across online platforms due to their relatability, humor, or cultural relevance.
- Evolution: Memes can evolve and change as they are shared and modified by users. New variations or adaptations may emerge, creating different versions of the original meme.
- Cultural Commentary: Memes are often used to comment on or satirize aspects of popular culture, current events, or societal trends. They can serve as a form of social commentary.
- Formats: Memes can take various forms, including images with overlaid text (image macros), animated GIFs, videos, hashtags, and catchphrases.
- Internet Culture: Memes are closely tied to internet culture, and their creation and propagation are facilitated by online communities and social media platforms.
- Fads: Memes can become short-lived internet fads, with their popularity surging and fading relatively quickly.
Some well-known examples of memes include the “Distracted Boyfriend,” “Woman Yelling at a Cat,” and “Pepe the Frog.” Memes have become a significant aspect of online communication and play a role in shaping and reflecting internet culture.