An Internet meme, commonly known as just a meme ( MEEM), is an activity, concept, catchphrase, or piece of media that spreads, often as mimicry or for humorous purposes, from person to person via the Internet. An Internet meme usually takes the form of an image (traditionally an image macro), GIF or video. It may be just a word or phrase, sometimes including intentional misspellings, (such as in lolcats) or corrupted grammar, as in doge and “All your base are belong to us”. These small movements tend to spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, or news sources. They may relate to various existing Internet cultures or subcultures, often created or spread on various websites. Fads and sensations tend to grow rapidly on the Internet because the instant communication facilitates word of mouth transmission. Some examples include posting a photo of people lying down in public places (called “planking”) and uploading a short video of people dancing to the Harlem Shake.
The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads; the concept of the Internet meme was first proposed by Mike Godwin in the June 1993 issue of Wired. In 2013, Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as being a meme deliberately altered by human creativity—distinguished from biological genes and his own pre-Internet concept of a meme, which involved mutation by random change and spreading through accurate replication as in Darwinian selection. Dawkins explained that Internet memes are thus a “hijacking of the original idea”, the very idea of a meme having mutated and evolved in this new direction. Furthermore, Internet memes carry an additional property that ordinary memes do not: Internet memes leave a footprint in the media through which they propagate (for example, social networks) that renders them traceable and analyzable.

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