What's in a meme? Pardon meme?
Let me explain. Or rather I'll let the expert explain:
Ben Huh, CEO of the Cheezburger Network, works in the business of memes. He says a meme is an "alternate media universe, where things echo off of each other, and people get very creative and strange and [it's] a bit of a meritocratic process of finding out what's good."
Huh's company — which runs 55 funny websites like failbook.com, which makes fun of Facebook; verydemotivational.com, which posts photos of posters that demotivate; and engrishfunny.com, which collects horrible mistranslations around the world — gets about 20,000 pieces of content daily.
Huh also popularized of the mother of all memes: LolCats — photos of cats that have different captions and are passed on from person to person.
The term meme was originally coined in the 1970s by Richard Dawkins, a British scientist and author of The Selfish Gene. Dawkins says a meme is something that spreads from person to person within a culture — like a toy craze or a pop song.
But on the Internet, a meme can be changed by each person who comes across it — and who passes it on. The perfect example, says Huh, is LolCats.
"The idea of captioning cat photos is a perfect definition of a meme because it requires the participation and it requires the spread of that content from person to person," Huh tells All Things Considered host Melissa Block. "Every person along the chain can actually create their own and put their own signature and stamp on it. And the rules of the game stay the same, which is cat photo plus caption."
Still confused? If you haven't seen the video that went viral on YouTube where a guy in Yosemite freaks out over seeing two rainbows, watch it.
As you can see here, the video was mixed into a song by the Gregory Brothers of Auto-Tune the News.
If you were to make your own spin on it, like many others have, you would be part of a meme.
And you'd contribute to Huh's other definition of a meme: "A huge distraction from everyday life that people can participate and remix and pass on."