What is a Meme?

"The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior." (Wikipedia)

Viral social media content is itself a meme, as social media allows for the rapid sharing and spreading of information and ideas from person to person. There are numerous examples of memes, some of the most popular being the Coke Happiness Machine, the ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge or “Tarder Sauce” the Grumpy Cat

Definitions

  •  "An idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture". A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary / Wikipedia)

  • A "meme" is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. A meme (rhymes with "team") behaves like a flu or a cold virus, traveling from person to person quickly, but transmitting an idea instead of a lifeform. (About.com)

  • An idea, fashion, or behavior that is transmitted from person to person through media, speech, gestures, and other forms of communication. (Hootsuite)

Statistics (JeffBullas.com

  • There are just over 3 billion active Internet users (45% of the world’s internet users).

  • Nearly 2.1 billion people have social media accounts.

  • 3.65 billion mobile users have access to the internet via smartphones and tablets.

  • Close to 1.7 billion people have active social media accounts.

Take Away

Great memes are passed from one individual to another and often involve humorous images, video or elements of text that are copied, often with slight variations, and spread rapidly by Internet users.