The Earliest Examples Of The Internet Meme

(PCM) Internet memes have become a staple in pop culture as we probably see an average of fifty or more of these, often hilarious, images throughout our social media feeds on a daily basis. Depending on who you follow, you could probably run into quite a bit more. Some are worth sharing, while others walk a fine line between being darkly humorous and borderline offensive or inappropriate.

Either way, the internet meme is definitely here to stay, but do you recall where they first began?  One of the earliest examples of the internet meme was the infamous “Dancing Baby” meme, which originated back in 1996. It was often sent in viral email chains and featured a short video clip of a 3D rendered baby in a diaper dancing to the song “Hooked on a Feeling” by the Swedish rock group Blue Swede.

It was released as a product sample source file in “Character Studio”, a 3D character animation software product. The “Dancing Baby” meme became so popular that it was even a staple feature on the hit television series “Ally McBeal”, as a hilarious metaphor for the main characters ticking biological clock.

Even before the “Dancing Baby” meme gained popularity there was the infamous “Godwin’s Law” meme which originated in the year of 1990. It is one of the most well-known internet memes and many feel it is still relevant today.

A man by the name of Mike Godwin posted the following on a Usenet message board “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” This means that as a conversation on the internet goes on, the likelihood of someone mentioning Adolf Hitler or Nazis increases.

Today, people use Godwin’s Law to mark the end of a conversation once Hitler or Nazis have been mentioned, noting that the person who made the reference to Hitler “lost” the discussion.

Now we move onto the annoyingly catchy “Hampster Dance” meme. We know you all remember this one, as it would become stuck in your head for weeks on end! The website was created in 1998 as a result of a competition between Canadian students to see who could generate the most traffic.

The popularity of the site led to the release of a song called “The Hampsterdance Song”, which was produced by The Boomtang Boys and released in 2000 – it was based on a sample of “Whistle Stop”. The song has been featured in few films and at one point, an animated series based on the hamsters was planned by Canadian animation studio Nelvana. We are kind of thankful that idea never came to fruition!

Finally, we have all seen at least one type of image reaction meme for the example, the Michael Jackson eating popcorn meme that reads “I’m only here for the comments”, but even earlier than that came the “It’s A Trap” meme which features and image and quote from the Star Wars character Admiral Ackbar from the film “Star Wars VI: The Last Jedi” which reads “It’s A Trap” warning users of potential bait and switch schemes or shady internet folks.

Despite the fact that the film was released in 1983, the meme soared to popularity in the early 2000’s and continues to be popular to this day.

These are some of the earliest known meme’s that created the internet phenomena as we know it today. The folks over at the, broke down the essential characteristics of what makes a good meme and they are as follows:

 Message: There needs to be a clearly definable, central message or reference that’s understood, and relatable by commonly shared knowledge or experience. The medium of the message isn’t relegated to an image and text; it can be either, or both. Or video, or solely audio.
Evolution: The meme cannot remain static. It must be adopted and remixed by a community of people that embrace it.
Malleability: It must aid in its own evolution by having defined characteristics that can be changed while maintaining and preserving some semblance of the original message.
Effect: It has to reach a certain level of popularity and understanding, or the message won’t matter. Perhaps the most important part of the meme is its virality.

We think this is one the best ways to sum it up and the internet meme is definitely something that is here to stay!