A meme is a concept or behavior that spreads from person to person. Examples of memes include beliefs, fashions, stories, and phrases. In previous generations, memes typically spread within local cultures or social groups. However, now that the Internet has created a global community, memes can span countries and cultures across the world. Memes that are propogated online are called "Internet memes."
Examples of behavioral Internet memes include using Facebook and checking email several times a day. While Facebook and email are now part of many people's daily life, both technologies are relatively new. They expanded through technological and social evolution to become commonplace in many cultures. Now Facebook and email, which are memes themselves, are common mediums used to spread Internet memes.
Another type of Internet meme is "chat slang," which includes acronyms and abbreviations used online. Over the past several years, Internet users have developed ways to communicate faster by creating new shorthand. Abbreviations like BTW and LOL are part of an entirely new lexicon created by Internet users. Emoticons, or text-based expressions, such as =) and :-P have become popular memes as well.
Internet memes may also be subjects, such as people or animals made popular by blogs or other websites. For example, a politician or celebrity involved in a public scandal may become an Internet meme thanks to numerous bloggers who publish their thoughts on the story. A household pet may even become a meme if it stars in a YouTube video that goes viral. These types of Internet memes are typically short-lived, but they are part of the larger meme of social networking, in which people participate in online communities.
Updated: November 28, 2011