The term Internet meme is a neologism used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an inside joke. The term is a reference to the concept of memes, although this concept refers to a much broader category of cultural information.
At its most basic, an Internet meme is simply the propagation of a digital file or link from one person to others using methods available through the Internet (for example, email, blogs, social networking sites, instant messaging, etc.). The content often consists of a saying or joke, a rumor, an altered or original image, a complete website, a video clip or animation, or an offbeat news story, among many other possibilities. An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, and parody versions, or even by collecting news accounts about itself. Internet memes have a tendency to evolve and spread extremely quickly, sometimes going in and out of popularity in a matter of days. They are spread organically, voluntarily, and peer to peer, rather than by compulsion, predetermined path, or completely automated means.
The term may refer to the content that spreads from user to user, the idea behind the content, or the phenomenon of its spread. Internet memes have been seen as a form of art. There exist websites that collect and popularize Internet memes as well as sites devoted to the spread of specific Internet memes. The term is generally not applied to content or web services that are seen as legitimate, useful, and non-faddish, or that spread through organized publishing and distribution channels. Thus, serious news stories, videogames, web services, songs by established musical groups, or the like are usually not called Internet memes. Internet memes over time can show interesting patterns, moving from individual webpages and pictures to user created remakes of popular content.
Types and uses Edit
One common form of Internet meme is created when a person, company, product, musical group, or the like is promoted on the Internet for its pop culture value. Vanity sites, for example, are among the first recognized Internet memes. In extraordinary cases where an otherwise non-noteworthy person or incident gains great popularity this way, it is often considered an Internet meme.
Inadvertent celebrity Edit
Often, a person or company becomes infamous (or indeed famous) by virtue of an embarrassing video, e-mail, or other act. These arise, for example, in the context of dating and relationships, video games, job applications, security cameras and other hidden videos, or collections of bizarre news stories. Examples include the Star Wars Kid and the Numa Numa dance.
Urban rumors and hoaxes Edit
Many Internet memes are urban legends, fraud schemes, slander, or false news stories that are either planted deliberately to become an Internet meme, evolve by mistake or rumor, or that jump from an offline source to the Internet. It is common to create fake "for sale" listings on sites such as Craigslist or eBay for no other reason than to amuse people. Web sites such as snopes.com collect lists of such hoaxes or offer services by which users can fact-check popular claims they find on the Internet in order to determine their source and whether or not they are true. Sites like Urban Dictionary and Snopes collect user-generated information about rumors, neologisms, and other popular culture phenomena, many of which could be considered internet memes.
Advertising and marketing Edit
Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have embraced Internet memes as a form of viral marketing to create marketing "buzz" for their product or service. Internet memes are seen as cost-effective, and because of their (sometimes self-conscious) faddishness, a way to create an image of cleverness or trendiness. Marketers, for example, use Internet memes to create interest in films that would otherwise not generate positive publicity among critics. The film Snakes on a Plane generated much publicity from this method. Political operatives use Internet memes to shape opinion. Used in the context of public relations, the term would be more of an advertising buzzword than a proper Internet meme, although there is still an implication that the interest in the content is for purposes of trivia, ephemera, or frivolity rather than straightforward advertising and news.
- Main article: Image Macro
Perhaps the most popular Internet memes are made by editing images (pictures, drawings, portraits, etc.) because of the ease that editing an image implies; these kind of Internet memes acquire a broad significance rapidly because they can be shared easily over the internet. These images usually depict a same original image edited or modified in several ways. For example, some accessories may be added, colors or dimensions changed or the background/foreground replaced. Another trend is to create a totally new image or version of the original concept. Many of these images originate from sites such as heavily-frequented internet forums.
References to pop cultureEdit
Often internet memes will include references to current items of pop culture, such as popular movies, celebrities or news. An example of this is the "Spartan" meme, quoting (or 'referencing') popular lines from the movie 300, especially in places where they don't make sense. The most common lines quoted are:
- "This is madness!"
- "Madness?... This is SPARTA!!!"
Sometimes, but not always, accompanied by images from the film, most commonly depicting one figure kicking another into a large black pit (such as a picture similar to common yellow-black warning signs: a stick-person kicking another into a pit with the warning "CAUTION: This is Sparta!" on the top and bottom). In 2008, there was even a Facebook group set up to encourage students to insert "This is Sparta" into their Advanced Placement tests.
Another example of a pop culture reference meme is the insertion of the name "Leeroy Jenkins" accompanying an ill-advised charge, following the staged events that occurred in World of Warcraft during a routine raid gone horribly wrong after the actions of "Jenkins". This meme and its typical usage prior to a catastrophic strategic failure has become popular enough to appear on the prime-time NBC comedy series My Name is Earl. In the show's 2008 Halloween episode, Randy Hickey charges into a fight with an angry mob with the battle cry, "Leeroy Jenkins!" The battle-cry also appeared in CBS' Moonlight when Logan Griffen (played by David Blue (actor)) screamed "Leeroy Jenkins!" while running in front of an escaping van.