With both alarm and jokes, the term 'World War 3' is spiking online - again

After comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the phrase "World War 3" has spiked on social media - but despite the alarm, it's not the first time that's happened this year.

Use of the phrase picked up after a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey near its border with Syria on Tuesday. It has been tweeted more than 21,000 times over the past week.

The phrase may seem alarmist, but some of those using it were expressing genuine concern - in particular after Putin described Turkish actions as a "stab in the back" and warned of "serious consequences." One user said: "If Putin retaliates against Turkey and NATO it's gonna be world war 3!"

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However, other users gave the trend a lighter treatment. "Hoping world war 3 breaks out so I don't have to do assignments," read one tweet.

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One of the most popular images referenced zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead:

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Despite the alarmist nature of the trend - and the seriousness of recent world events - a quick glance at the phrase shows that it has spiked in popularity in the past. Pope Francis, for instance, has warned about a "piecemeal" World War Three on several occasions dating back to last year. The attacks in Paris earlier this month also prompted another wave of online panic.

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