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Memes and Cybercondriacs

Can a mere idea cause medical pathology? At first, such question may appear excessively philosophical, but the phenomenon is medically documented.

Antonio Casilli suggests the term «cyberchondriacs» to describe individuals affected by such :

The Web also conveys epidemics of panic. Rumours regarding the existence of fake diseases can sometimes spread across online forums. This fuels legions of “cyberchondriacs” and, according to experts, would have a triggering effect on sicknesses with strong psychosomatic aspects.

(Antonio Casilli1)

The virality of the Internet meme – a term coined by Richard Hawkins’ The Selfish Gene (1976), well before the Web was born – can therefore be understood in a completely literal sense, comparable to that of bacteria and micro-pathogens.


  1. Casilli, Antonio. Les liaisons numériques. Vers une nouvelle sociabilité ? La couleur des idées. Paris: Seuil, 2010. ↩︎