Memes have an important role in modern society

When you write an article about memes

Kasy Vasquez

When you write an article about memes

Anyone on social media nowadays (or, really, anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock) has most likely seen a few memes, from the rage comics of the previous decade to last year’s mourning over Harambe. Memes are often viewed as an insipid form of entertainment, funny at best, overused at worst. Casual glances at memes, whether on Tumblr, iFunny, Facebook, or even Instagram would confirm this view, and, in most cases, would probably be correct.

However, memes have evolved into a form of self-expression

li-gong on Tumblr
An example of a current “relatable” meme

and criticism, while still maintaining classic relatability. Memes have an important role in society: to join people of different groups together, and increase exposure to issues using humor in an easy-to-spread format.

As shown in this Time article, depression in teens (arguably the main consumers of meme culture) is on the rise, and popular memes have changed to reflect that. Talking about depression online has become less of a worrisome thing and more of an ‘lol, same’, a drastic change from early 2000’s humor. At the same time, stigma behind depression has decreased within college-aged groups. The prevalence of this modern dark humor has allowed people struggling with depression to find a way to express themselves, and the conjugate “wholesome meme” format allows friends to show they care.

While not as long-lasting as the more “relatable” memes, criticism of society, corporations and political figures also can

vladimirleninofficial on Tumblr
An example of the Dennys meme craze on Tumblr

spread a message like wildfire. No example come clearer to mind than the recent backlash at the Denny’s tumblr, after they used a meme for their advertising sooner than acceptable as set by unspoken standards. Tumblr user leviathan-supersystem’s response resulted in a meme that burst in popularity in less than a day. It sparked a search that led to knowledge of the controversies behind both Denny’s and Erwin Penland, the company behind the Denny’s tumblr, being spread.

Memes have become so crucial in the spread of information due to how easily they are shared. A simple press of a button allows a meme to be shown to hundreds of people, which in turn can share it to more and more people. A study from Indiana University shows that the more groups a meme finds its way into, the more viral the meme becomes. This also sets memes up as an important way of creating a sense of inter-community.