Memes Hold Massive Societal Influence
Over the past several years, a new online culture has been sweeping through all forms of social media: memes.
The original definition of “meme,” as posited by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The second definition provided by the dictionary is more contemporary: “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.”
It’s difficult to say why memes have become so prevalent in today’s online society.
“I look at memes whenever I’m taking a break from studying. If I find a meme I enjoy, I immediately share it with my closest friends by either tagging them in the photo or texting them a picture of it,” said West Ranch High School junior, Lauren Lee. “I relieve stress from school by having a couple of laughs at some memes I find on the Internet.”
The subjects of memes range from presidents to chickens to pop stars to historical paintings. One specific subject, no longer particularly relevant but still enjoyed, is the Joe Biden-Barack Obama “bromance.” Often portraying Biden as an immature man who shows abounding affection for his superior, “Biden memes” have swept social media more endearingly than other memes due to their current political relevance – although now that Obama’s administration is officially over, they can be expected to be replaced by other memes.
Despite the superficial hilarity of it all, memes are often very true – almost too true. Memes that relate specifically to depression, anxiety, or any type of emotional instability perform very well, despite the dark topics they center on. The dark humor of it all appeals to people because they themselves understand the subject.
An interesting study performed by the Chicago University of Understanding Cultural Knowledge discovered that there exists a high correlation between ironic memes and depression by messaging and interviewing over 500 admins of ironic memes on Facebook.
“I like memes that joke about being depressed and mentally unstable and hating everyone,” Lee said. “I don’t know if I would consider myself depressed, but there are times when I feel like that.”
As with every correlation, this does not necessarily mean that memes cause depression.
To do away with memes would be to do away with a specific type of online culture that has lifted spirits and created social connections. Despite possibly disturbing correlations, memes have not been proven to do any societal harm — except perhaps distracting students from important schoolwork.