Memes Are More Than Just A Good Laugh.

Memes are everywhere, rapidly taking over social media. What exactly is a meme? A picture or cartoon with a message written across it in a standardized font. This message is usually a joke relevant to society. The pairing between the photo and caption is what creates the relationship between the viewer and the meme. Some captions are literal in relation to the picture, and some are more abstract. Different types of caption-photo relationships provoke different reactions.

Memes have manifested into a meme culture which is exactly what it sounds like, the evolving culture surrounding memes. This culture fosters memes, and their interactions and impacts on society.

One effect that meme culture has pushed on society is the idea of a collective consciousness: a concept that refers to the set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge that are common to a social group or society. The posting and sharing of memes puts certain opinions in people’s minds, implements that these opinions are shared by society, and causes people to take on these opinions as their own unconsciously.

Another outcome of meme culture is bringing people together. Tagging friends in memes is the modern version of a friendship bracelet: a bracelet, or in this case meme, given by one person to another as a symbol of friendship. This strengthens the bond between two people through them bonding and laughing over a meme together. Thanks to social media, distance is not a factor in tagging someone in a meme, and this process could spark a conversation with an old friend.  

However, there is an aspect to memes that no one thinks about that I learned about in my communications class this year. My professor put a meme on the board, perks of being a communications major, of an old lady reaching out of a wheelchair for an alcohol bottle with the caption “there has been a miracle in the alcohol isle.”

If I saw this photo on Instagram, I would have smirked due to the collective consciousness taking over me, and causing me to think it’s innocent humor because it’s a meme. When in fact, this meme has multiple meanings. This woman is disabled, and this meme paints her being able to lift up as lying about her disability. It makes it seem as though she cannot buy alcohol because she is disabled. The world “miracle” creates a religious connotation pointing to the fact that she should be buying something for conservative like bread or eggs. This meme is extremely demeaning to disabled people, and there are many more like this one out there.

Through this meme culture, some photos from memes go viral, and end up being reused with many different captions. Knowyourmeme.com is a database that allows you to look up the origin of specific meme pictures, look at it’s evolution through notable examples, and even track it’s search interest.  

So next time you see a meme, laugh, and tag your friend- know there is a lot more to think about.