An internet meme is a concept that spreads by the internet and may take on the form of a image, video, hashtag, website, or may simply be a word or phrase. Memes spread organically and by mechanisms similar to those of evolutionary biology including mutation and replication as well as pressures like competition and differentiation within their environment–the term was originally coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.
Prominent examples of internet-based meme propagation include the Dancing Baby (mid-1990s, featured a heavily remixed animated baby that, for reasons unknown, danced everywhere), the Peanut Butter Jelly Time Banana (2001, a dancing banana that screamed/sang “It’s peanut butter jelly time!”), and All Your Base Are Belong To Us (2009, fans shared an awkward translation of in-game text from the 1989 game Zero Wing and the internet was swamped with parodies).
One of the tell-tale signs of a meme (versus simply something a lot of people are exposed to) is that memes generally evolve rapidly into new forms. People see the original and begin to imitate it, remix it, and otherwise interact with it and rapidly propagate the idea via the internet.
- By Jason Fitzpatrick on 01/8/13