Memes as we know them are a pretty new thing. People in niche internet communities started using the word 10 years ago, give or take, and it didn’t see widespread use until about five years ago.
But the term “meme” was first coined by Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. Dawkins defined a meme as “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture—often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.” In short, a meme is a fad that spreads quickly. The rise of internet memes have allowed these fads to spread so rapidly and dominantly that the terms “internet meme” and “meme” are now essentially synonymous in our culture.
However, a new photo is making the rounds online that suggests memes have existed long before they had an official title. It comes from a 1921 issue of Judge Magazine, but it reads a lot like something written in 2018.