|See also:||anon meme, kink meme, image macro|
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By definition, a meme is a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. The name comes from a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme, from Greek mimēma, something imitated, from mimeisthai, to imitate; see mimesis. The term was invented by Richard Dawkins before the Internet was publicly available. Nowadays the word usually refers to internet memes, ideas more or less rapidly disseminated across the web that spawn varying numbers of mutations and imitations depending on the success of the idea. Internet memes are somewhat removed from the original definition of the word, but as such are an example of the concept itself.
Some general internet memes have inspired fanworks (see Lolcats in Fandom), and others have inspired fans to participate in the memes themselves. Fans on Tumblr, Twitter, and other social media sites have originated many fannish internet memes (see Flower Crowns); in fact the line between a "fannish" and "non-fannish" internet meme is blurry, considering how geeky general Internet culture is. Fandom has also developed some idiosyncratic uses of the word meme (see Kink Meme and Anon Meme).
In some parts of fandom, the word meme is used for activities that don't quite fit the general understanding of internet memes, but do involve repetition and rapid spread. On LiveJournal, a meme usually denotes a simple activity, often literary or artistic, perpetuated by repeated participation in the meme by interested parties. Some memes demand that participants continue to participate, either by insisting that a person who takes part in one stage must take part in the next, or that a person who participates must indicate a certain number of future participants. Such demands are sometimes considered rude. However, even those memes have no way to enforce participation. This sort of instruction is similar to ones found in chain letters that now circulate in email, except that chain emails can last for years, whereas memes generally last for days. Memes differ from challenges by their lack of central organization or timetable.
Common memes include online quiz results ("Which Hogwarts House would you be sorted into?"), series of personal questions ("What's your favorite fanfic?" etc.), icon design or explanation games, and random simple entertainment activities ("Grab the nearest book; turn to page 23; write line 5 in your journal.").
Kink memes are commentfic fests often found on journal sites. They take the form of branching comment threads where users post prompts that others may choose to fill. Most kink memes allow or even mandate anonymity. Despite the name, kink meme prompts and fills aren't necessarily sexual in nature, although many are focused around explicit or at least romantic material. Most kink memes are focused around a single fandom or pairing.
(Usenet memes? Comparison to goatse and Rickrolling pranks? LOLcats?)
- "I think the idea of the meme is a ridiculous pseudo-scientific way of talking about culture without having to bother to, you know, learn about culture. Social Darwinian nonsense. That having been said, yes, it's worth pointing out that the LJ use of it has nothing to do with the original use, but I like it better, since "me! me!" actually nicely describes what those quizzes are, and it's a funny-cause-it's-true sort of reappropriation of the word." 
See Category:Memes for some memes documented on Fanlore.
- Definition of 'meme'
- Various. Memes. Know Your Meme's page on the meme of memes (accessed 28 June 2013)
- See Internet meme on Wikipedia. (Accessed 9 May 2015.)
- For example, see Everything Changed When The Fire Nation Attacked (Avatar: The Last Airbender quote) and One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor (Lord of the Rings quote) at Know Your Meme.
- Seperis. Small Meme Repository, archived. Posted 21 October 2007. (accessed 22 May 2009)
- The Friday Five community at LJ
- comment at Pass it On - it can be a Meme!; archive link (2002)