- Date Found: 01/1976
- Used By: The internet, Everyone on the internet
An idea or set of ideas, pieces of culture, that self-replicate, i.e. can and is transferred from a person or group to another person or group. The word "meme" was invented by Richard Dawkins (yes, that Richard Dawkins) in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as a term meaning something that is imitated. According to Dawkins, meme rhymes with cream.
Memes have become a very important part of the internet. They generally have humor in mind, but this is not always the case. What makes a meme big can depend on many things: how easy it is to make (see Advice Dog), how outrageous it is (or alternatively, how observational it is), or many other variables. Just like with creating a joke, creating a meme does not always follow a scientific, surefire formula.
Any of a wide number of words, phrases, images or videos that spread without a concious effort on the part of an individual or group.
The First Internet Meme
Mail-from: Arpanet host CMU-10A rcvd at 10-NOV-82 0826-PST
Date: 10 November 1982 1126-EST (Wednesday)
From: James.Morris at CMU-10A
To: csl^ at PARC-MAXC, isl^ at PARC-MAXC, junk^ at PARC-MAXC
Subject: Communications Breakthrough
Message-Id: <10Nov82 112614 JM90@CMU-10A>
Because you can't see the person who is sending you electronic mail you are sometimes uncertain whether they are serious or joking. Recently, Scott Fahlman at CMU devised a scheme for annotating one's messages to overcome this problem. If you turn your head sideways to look at the three characters :-) they look sort of like a smiling face. Thus, if someone sends you a message that says "Have you stopped beating your wife?:-)" you know they are joking. If they say "I need to talk to you :-(", be prepared for trouble.
Since Scott's original proposal, many further symbols have bee proposed here:
(:-) for messages dealing with bicycle helmets
@= for messages dealing with nuclear war
<:-) for dumb questions
oo for somebody's head-lights are on messages
Dividing memes into "internet memes" and "IRL memes" is a false dichotomy. By its definition, a meme cannot be restricted to one form of media. Memes of course existed long before the internet, ex. fashions, religious beliefs, art movements, folklore, language conventions, songs, proverbs...the list goes on.
Like all other memes, ones that are popular on or relevant to the internet or internet culture are transmitted through people and exist in the minds of individuals. People are not exclusive to the internet, so memes can be passed along through other means. Likewise, memes unrelated to the internet can also be shared on the internet.