Q&A: What is a Meme?

So, you want to know what a meme is…

Well, first and foremost, the correct way to pronounce “meme” is “meem”. Now we got that out of the way, I can answer the question most people ask, “What is a meme?”.

A “meme” is a concept for discussing a cultural phenomenon, such as catch phrases, songs, or fashion. In recent years, the term has also taken on a new form via the Internet, which includes pictures and videos. The term was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkin in his book, The Selfish Gene.


  • Phrases: YOLO
  • Songs: Friday by Rebecca Black
  • Videos: “Charlie, you bit me!”
  • Terms: Trolling – the act of annoying someone in order to stir anger, Herp/Derp – used as name replacements or describing a waste of time spent (South Park origin, example: So Derp and I were herp-derping on the computer and found this awesome blog explaining memes and Facebook).

Memes are easy to share and become viral via social media sites.

Sites such as Reddit, Imgur, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and 4chan, as well as through emails, are ways that memes grow to be such a large phenomenon is very little time. Not only can you easily share memes, but you can also make memes through meme generator sites. The ability to easily generate memes and share them with friends through social sites has increased the growth of memes popularity.

Many of today’s most popular memes have even spread beyond the computer screen, becoming shows on television, and icons on t-shirts, coffee mugs and mouse pads. Some examples many of you may know are: Nyan Cat, Fred Figglehorn, Me Gusta, Honey Badger, Y U No… and many, many more that have become increasingly used in daily conversations.

What makes a meme so catchy?

It’s the way they become an expression of how you feel. 

For example: First World Problems. This began with just a picture of a girl crying, which has become liked to things that people in developed countries may encounter – “my iPhone is about to die and I forgot my charger in my Mercedes, first world problems”. With so many photos available and countless ways to capture video clips or computer screen shots, it is easy to take a simple moment and turn it into anything you want.

Laina Walker  (who has denied that Walker is really her last name) is a young 20 year old girl who one day entered a Justin Beiber fan video of her singing a parody of his song “Boyfriend.” Her face was screen captured and the meme creators of the Internet spread her image like wildfire as “Overly attached girlfriend”. This photo captures Walker gazing crazily at the screen with a caption of something any crazy girlfriend might say, like “I was looking through your call history, who is this mom girl? Are you cheating on me?”

Embarrassing, right? Well, what may have made her embarrassed at  first, has now made her slightly famous, seeing as she now has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, as of August 30th, 2012. Maybe someone can make a meme out of me?


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