Mathematical Models of Fads Explain the Temporal Dynamics of Internet Memes
Keywords:Internet memes, collective attention, time series analysis
Internet memes are a pervasive phenomenon on the social Web. They typically consist of viral catch phrases, images, or videos that spread through instant messaging, (micro) blogs, forums, and social networking sites. Due to their popularity and proliferation, Internet memes attract interest in areas as diverse as marketing, sociology, or computer science and have been dubbed a new form of communication or artistic expression. In this paper, we examine the merits of such claims and analyze how collective attention into Internet memes evolves over time. We introduce and discuss statistical models of the dynamics of fads and fit them to meme related time series obtained from Google Trends. Given data as to more than 200 memes, we find that our models provide more accurate descriptions of the dynamics of growth and decline of collective attention to individual Internet memes than previous approaches from the literature. In short, our results suggest that Internet memes are nothing but fads.