TL: DR: I know what a meme is. Do you?
In the last couple of years, the use of image macros on internet forums has become very common. An image macro is a picture captioned with superimposed text for humorous effect. There exist several types of image macros, such as "bad advice puppy", "socially awkward penguin", and "philosoraptor", and new ones are born every day. I personally don't use them often, but I don't mind them. Some are actually quite witty/funny and even useful.
Unfortunately, these image macros have started to be erroneously called "memes". Now, in my opinion, image macros are in fact memes. Successfully spreading image macros are definitely memes, but not all memes are of the image macro type. Memes are much, much more than that, and I find it unfortunate and wrong that people call image macros memes, as if that were the meaning of the word.
What is actually a meme? The word "meme" was coined in by Professor Richard Dawkins in his famous book "The Selfish Gene" back in 1976, long before the Internet. In his book, Dawkins defined a meme as a "unit of cultural transmission". Wikipedia describes it as "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture". There are thousend of memes in Western culture alone. Some examples are the belief of life after death, the Coca-Cola logo, and Beethoven's fifth symphony (dun-dun-dun- duuuuun), ideas which have been spreading throughout our culture so successfully that anybody can recognize them.
This is a quote from Chapter 11 from Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene":
Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passed it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.
The use of image macros is definitely a meme. It is an idea which has successfully propagated to the point where most people on this and other internet forums understand them when used in the correct context. They may be limited to a small percentage of the population (even a small percentage of the computer/internet-literate population), but they are memes nonetheless. HOWEVER, the word "meme" has a much, much broader meaning than a simple image macro. Hence, when talking about image macros, the term "image macro" should be used, not "meme".
Thank you for reading.