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Derived from the word mimesis meaning “mimicry or imitation”, a meme is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. The word meme is coined in 1976 as a shortened form of mimeme, meaning “something imitated.” Memes are now more easily spread online. They come in the form of various media, particularly image and video.

Memes are often cultural fads; they pop into people’s consciousness and then fade out as easily. Other times, they get crystallized in people’s minds and fuel the imagination for ways to further communication of the meme. The “I can haz cheezburger” meme of the “lolcats” fame, for instance, has borne a significantly vast set of similar image memes.

Memes are often spread through buzzwords and catchphrases that people understand like they do private jokes and urban legends. This influential and affective spread of ideas made it possible for otherwise obscure music, movies, or television shows to receive attention from the public. Memes are even sometimes used as tools for marketing products and services.

“Viral” videos may be considered Internet memes in themselves. Short online movies of cats playing instruments or doing cute things or babies doing unusual and funny things often gain worldwide attention and receive massive feedback, both positive and negative. Catchphrases are often created out of them and spread as memes too. They are called “viral” because of their “infectious” spread in popularity (or alternatively, infamy).

Memes and viral online movies circulate faster through the Internet, where sharing information and media is easy. Most memes nowadays begin on the Internet. On the other hand, in news broadcasts that have big cultural impact, knowledge of these spreads online, where they reach millions of users, seconds at a time.

Unintentional or not, memes have powerful emotional or psychological impact on audiences that give them widespread circulation. Almost anything can become a meme, but it takes the powerful ability of certain images or videos to capture the human experience to make one. Some online movies have the uncanny ability to make a universal impact on the soul that people cannot help but share them with loved ones; that is how it usually starts.

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