An Meme or Internet meme (pronounced meem) is an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of content which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person via the Internet.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”
An Internet meme may take the form of an image, hyperlink, video, website, or hashtag. It may be just a word or phrase, including an intentional misspelling. These small movements tend to spread from person to person via social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, blogs, email, video hosting websites like YouTube, or news sources. They may relate to various existing Internet cultures or subcultures, often created or spread on various websites.
The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, as an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads. Internet memes are a subset of this general meme concept specific to the culture and environment of the Internet. The concept of the Internet meme was first proposed by Mike Godwin in the June 1993 issue of Wired. In 2013 Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as being a meme deliberately altered by human creativity—distinguished from biological genes and Dawkins’ pre-Internet concept of a meme which involved mutation by random change and spreading through accurate replication as in Darwinian selection. Dawkins explained that Internet memes are thus a “hijacking of the original idea”, the very idea of a meme having mutated and evolved in this new direction. Further, Internet memes carry an additional property that ordinary memes do not—Internet memes leave a footprint in the media through which they propagate (for example, social networks) that renders them traceable and analyzable.
Examples of some popular and long-lived Internet memes: