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An internet meme is a meme (a term coined by Richard Dawkins to describe songs, catch phrases, clothes fashions, or other cultural information passed from person to person) that is passed over the internet by word of mouth. They usually take the form of phrases, pictures, animations or jokes, such as the Chuck Norris Jokes, which are usually started by a post on community based websites such as 4chan, SomethingAwful, or YTMND. If they are repeatedly posted and recycled by the internet community until they become a sort of inside joke, they become a meme. Sometimes, if they grow so large as to be recognized outside of the internet community, they become internet phenomena (the best examples being Chuck Norris and Snakes on a Plane).
Evolution of Internet memes
Internet Memes usually start when someone (usually a forum member), posts a phrase, a picture (usually edited on photoshop to make it more humorous), a flash animation, a song, or a video. They are almost always jokes, the subject of which can be virtually anything. Many common subjects include current events (Michael Richards' racist rant), a funny picture, a stupid or grammatically incorrect phrase (usually taken from a forum), a movie, TV show, or video game, or websites. If those who view the joke find it funny, they will often repost it elsewhere and/or edit the joke in order to add their own twist before reposting it. A good example of recycling a joke is the "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" video on Newgrounds.com, which features a massive amount of pictures with the words "All your base are belong to us" placed in the picture using Photoshop. When the jokes are reposted enough so that the majority of the websites users are aware of it, it becomes a meme.
- Note: The "All your base are belong to us" joke got to the point where it was featured in the popular comic strip Foxtrot by Bill Amend.
A "forced meme" is when someone posts their own joke and then repeatedly reposts it in an attempt to have their joke become a meme. This practice is almost always frowned upon. However, sometimes the attempt to stop a forced meme will sometimes spawn a meme in of itself.
Examples of memes
These examples are of memes which are not known to the mainstream public; this distinguishes them from Internet Phenomena, which usually are.
Zero Wing: Zero Wing is a Sega Genesis game which became known for its poorly translated dialogue. The most famous line is "All your base are belong to us". Internet users repeatedly posted the line until it became a meme.
Leeroy Jenkins: A video of players in the video game World of Warcraft in which a large team of players are preparing to enter a room in Upper Blackrock Spire full of dangerous enemies. The players are planning their attack (using Ventrilo), when a player named Leeroy Jenkins yells "Leeeeeeroyyyy Jeeeeenkins!" and rushes into the room. The rest of the team follows and they are all killed. (Note: Leeroy Jenkins is now considered an Internet Phenomenon as it has distinguished itself outside of the internet realm. Leeroy Jenkins has adorned articles of clothing, music, magazines as well as the TV trivia show Jeopardy.)
The Numa Numa Dance: A video of an enthusiastic kid dancing to a romanian dance song ("Dragostea Din Tei" by O-Zone).
Vector the Crocodile: In the video game Shadow the Hedgehog, Vector says "Find the Computer Room!" in one of the stages. This phrase has been used several times on YTMND among other sites, with variants like, "FIND DA COMPUTER ROOM!!!"
The N64 Kid: A video of a boy opening a Nintendo 64 on Christmas. The boy then goes crazy, jumping up and down yelling "Nintendo 64!!!" and pawing at the box.
Pooh's Adventures: Videos in which clips of Winnie the Pooh and other characters are inserted into famous movies.
Sonic Inflation: Drawings of female Sonic characters being filled with helium, water, or other substances, which causes them to swell like balloons.