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An Internet meme is an idea that is propagated through the World Wide Web. The idea may take the form of a hyperlink, video, picture, website,hashtag, or just a word or phrase, such as intentionally misspelling the word "more" as "moar" or "the" as "teh". The meme may spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, news sources, or other web-based services. An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, parody, or by incorporating news accounts about itself. Internet memes can evolve and spread extremely rapidly, sometimes reaching world-wide popularity within a few days. Internet memes usually are formed from some social interaction (Rage comic or reaction faces), pop culture reference (Xzibit in "Yo Dawg" or Bear Grylls in "Better drink my own piss"), or situation people often find themselves in (Socially Awkward Penguin or Futurama Fry / Not Sure If X). Many memes also come from video games (such as the "arrow in the knee" from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim). For researchers it's hard to track down the birthplace of memes due to their viral nature, as well as the high chance of the meme spreading to major websites nearly instantly.

Their rapid growth and impact has caught the attention of both researchers and industry.[3] Academically, researchers model how they evolve and predict which memes will survive and spread throughout the Web. Commercially, they are used in viral marketing where they are an inexpensive form of mass advertising.Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have embraced Internet memes as a form of viral marketing and guerrilla marketing to create marketing "buzz" for their product or service. The practice of using memes to market products or services is known as memetic marketing.[4] Internet memes are seen as cost-effective, and because they are a (sometimes self-conscious)fad, they are therefore used as a way to create an image of cleverness or trendiness.

Marketers, for example, use Internet memes to create interest in films that would otherwise not generate positive publicity among critics. The 2006 film Snakes on a Plane generated much publicity via this method.[5] Used in the context of public relations, the term would be more of an advertising buzzword than a proper Internet meme, although there is still an implication that the interest in the content is for purposes of trivia, ephemera, or frivolity rather than straightforward advertising and news.[6] The term "meme" has been widely mispronounced (/ˈmiːmi/, sounding like "me me" or sometimes "meh meh" or even mayh-mm) throughout various markets, including online gaming communities, podcasts, radio, and television and internet video.[7] The French word même ("same"), a dynamic word having different meanings depending on usage as an adverb, pronoun, adjective, or within common expressions has also been adopted in the common mispronunciation of Dawkins' meme.[8]

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