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July 7, 2016updated 22 Sep 2016 12:40pm

What is a meme?

The concept behind fads such as planking.

By Ellie Burns

First appearing as a term in Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’, a meme is defined as ‘an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture’.

The recent proliferation of social networks has given rise to the Internet meme, which is the sharing of an activity, concept, catchphrase or media between people, often through mimicry, via the Internet.

An Internet meme could take the form of an image, video, hyperlink, website, hashtag, word or phrase, with social networks, email and blogs used to spread the meme from person to person.



Many memes tap into various internet cultures or subcultures, and sometimes create a fad or sensation mimicked by many people.

For example, the fad of ‘planking’ was popular for a time and saw many people post pictures of others laying down or balancing on public places. Image macros are also a popular version of an internet meme, whereby a popular or common image is superimposed with text. This is often designed to be humorous.

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