Although many people utilize memes for entertainment or comedic purposes, they comprise a newfound form of media that has significant implications in the real world. Attracting large audiences with their creativity and humor, internet memes carry influence on social media platforms, and offer more than just a “good laugh.” First and foremost, an internet meme is content in the form of a picture or GIF accompanied by text which makes a humorous statement about a particular situation or issue in society. In their article about internet memes, LifeWire further describes this form of content as a critique of a “cultural symbol” or “social concept.” Therefore, internet memes can be drivers of cultural or social change, along with being hilarious, of course. For example, the following meme depicts the current climate of the “fake news” epidemic in a satiric light while indirectly communicating the problem of public distrust of the news.
— Memes.com (@memes) November 10, 2018
Because this internet meme addresses a political issue, it forces users to reflect upon the situation and tweet their responses to their own niche audiences. Consequently, a snowball effect may occur, spreading a mere “internet meme” into a political tool.
On the other hand, internet memes can influence a certain cultural behavior. The following meme depicting Billy Porter highlights an unspoken truth for us all: we, as humans, love drama.
Me: I hate drama
Also me when there’s drama: pic.twitter.com/sCyKFgnzZK
— Sam Stryker (@sbstryker) January 27, 2020
With over 500,000 likes, this highly engaged internet meme communicates a specific cultural behavior, and from its interactions, it is safe to assume that most people resonate with the content. Consequently, Twitter users may subconsciously be inclined to look for more drama, as their search for it would be supported by the online popularity of this meme.
Nonetheless, internet memes not only make people laugh, but also inspire cultural and political trends through their comedic relatability. Although most internet memes are founded on humor and comedy, the effects of internet memes can have either lasting cultural or social influences on the masses.