Free to Be You and Meme

Image credit: David Berkowitz

Grumpy Cat
Photo by David Berkowitz

Have you ever added your own funny caption to a popular online image—like Grumpy Cat, real name Tardar Sauce—and shared it via your social network? And maybe your connections shared it with two friends…and so on and so on.

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve contributed to a cultural phenomenon known as a “meme.”

Say what? Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s meme!

Merriam-Webster defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The dictionary also revealed that meme is in its top 1% of lookups and the 412nd most popular word on its website.

What’s fascinating is well-known atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins first coined the term back in 1976 (Wikipedia), more than 20 years before the Internet became ubiquitous in our lives.

The combination of social networks and mobile devices have helped memes spread like wildfire. From planking photos to Harlem Shake mash-up videos to Ryan Gosling’s “Hey Girl” images, these ideas have taken on a life of their own.

So the next time you post, share, or like that piece of viral digital content, think of meme.

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