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What is a meme?

A meme is a photo or video, usually about cultural symbols, social ideas, or current events. It is spread by Facebook, Instagram, texting, etc. The more a meme is spread, the greater the cultural influence it has. Memes are a worldwide social phenomenon. Memes are usually funny, but often that humor is injected with wry political or social commentary.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” in his bestselling 1976 book The Selfish Gene to describe an idea, behavior, or style that rapidly spreads from person to person in a culture. The word “meme” came from the Greek word “mimeme,” which means imitated thing.

Sometimes memes exist for shock value or to teach a life lesson. Other times a single photo or short video will generate hundreds of hilarious interpretations. Sometimes a meme will be appreciated by only a select group of people, and other times a meme will have near-universal appeal. Some memes stick around a while because they represent something timeless that continually rings true for people. Kids, parenting, pets, and everyday life offer endless meme material. Some famous memes are Grumpy Cat, Kermit the frog, Planking, Honey Badger, and Angry Baby. Popular memes are often funny, ranging from silly humor to niche humor to more pointed political humor.


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