n. an idea, behavior, thought, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture, a unit for carrying ideas
General Denotation: A meme is usually a picture, idea, or joke that is taken by a group and replicated/altered. It has become a term to name an inside joke or something funny, usually online. Memes are a viral phenomenon, usually associated with the fast-paced Internet culture in which they are often spread. In this post, I will be mostly referring to the larger, newer subset of Internet memes, the most well-known category.
Pronounced “meem”
Etymology: Meme is a shortening of the Greek word mimeme meaning “imitated thing”, also where the English word for mimic and mimicry comes from. The term was created for the concept of spreading ideas and cultural phenomenons (even before computers and modern technology) by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene, in 1976. At this point, memes included melodies, catchphrases, and fashion trends. Interestingly, the study of memes and meme theory (a field known as “memetics”) began in the mid-1980s – 1990s, where memes were compared to studies of genetics in the way of variation, mutation, and replication. Dawkins claimed that the process of the evolution of culture and memes is similar to natural selection. An original meme starts and others try to create related memes. Successful ones spread, while others fail.
Sociolectal information: Memes have become more popular and well-known by people outside of the Internet community, but the most current and popular memes come from the exchanges of people on the Web through social media sites, such as Tumblr, Vine, Twitter, Reddit, etc.. Memes now most often refer to these well-known references usually started on the Internet and social media.
Survival Predictions: I think memes will survive and continue to flourish in culture as they are currently doing. I believe that the same method of meme creation and spreading will continue, and I think the popularity of memes will continue to fluctuate, with some being more famous in the real world than others. For example, there are countless memes that never make it out into the real world and are recognized and appreciated for the most part, by and on the Internet, and by a group of usually teens and young adults. In juxtaposition to this, we have the “Damn, Daniel” meme, which went globally viral and got attention in news and pop culture media everywhere. In either case, the creation and life of memes through the Internet is very fast-paced, resulting in a shorter life span and limited spotlight for most memes. I think that memes are most popular with the group of young adults that spend their time on the Internet and that a lot of the disdain for them comes form outside groups, who find them dumb or useless. Older generations may use them as a claim against millennials. But I would argue that the creation and transmission of memes is just a newer form of cultural spreading, that they do not always understand and therefore, discredit.
Lexopinions: I love memes. I think they are hilarious, I’m usually quite up to date on them myself. Memes are an art form, in my opinion, because it is usually random as to how they start and how viral they become, but to be successful the replications must be crafted carefully and quickly. There is a science behind the phenomenon that I find exciting and also hilarious, because most people just think they’re dumb Internet fads. Meme theory and meme usage in marketing and pop culture are growing fields.

Fun Fact: The pictures that most people usually associate as traditional memes, the photos with the white and bold phrases at the top and/or bottom are actually called image macros and are technically not considered Internet memes, until they hit a certain level of mass recognition. Basically they are a subset of the larger meme category.

Examples of memes: The Dress (black/blue or white/gold?), left shark, Pepe, doge, fresh avacado, jeans/denim everything, damn Daniel, tag yourself, dog pants, Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, Shia LeBeouf: “Just Do It”

doge  doge          pepe Pepe the frog

Meme Discussion with Becca:

Damn, Daniel on Ellen:


  1. kesandberg says:

    This was a great post! I feel like I would really struggle to define exactly what a meme was, but you did a really good job of explaining it. All of the stuff about Dawkins was SO interesting. I had no idea that there was actually a field associated with studying memes and how they spread, but now that I know, I definitely want to learn more about it! Overall, your post was very informative, and I loved the examples. I wonder if there are any negative connotations associated with memes? Maybe you could discuss if there are people who dislike them and why, and also whether memes are only popular with certain age groups!

Speak Your Mind