Memes have gotten to the point where we have to wonder why they are so popular.
Memes have taken over online culture, with prominent meme pages attracting tens of millions of followers on social media. People all throughout the world rely on the daily release of dopamine in their brains that comes from laughing at their favourite meme page, as if memes were the coffee of 2019. Memes, on the other hand, are much more than a simple source of amusement in everyday life: they serve as a platform for political speech, societal discontent, and business advertising.
What has caused society to rely on a simple visual display to meet so many "essential" conversation elements? Reduced focus times, as well as a more offense-ridden society, are the answers.
As a society, our use of social media has exploded in the last year, with over 3.5 billion people using at least one site as of 2019. Our consumption of memes has also increased. The phrase meme is googled more than the term Jesus Christ, according to a Google survey from 2016.
From my own personal experience, every individual I know on social media follows at least one meme page, with some of us following over 150. There is a meme for everyone, whether it's more toned-down, shallow-humor memes for a middle-aged demographic on Facebook, more offensive and edgy memes for teenagers on Instagram, or even the most graphic and largely offensive memes on reddit.com (a platform notorious for illegal and seemingly "anonymous" behaviour) for the true meme-obsessed.
So, what is the source of this broad adoration for visual delights? The average human attention span has just plummeted from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, placing us below that of a goldfish, according to the Telegraph. When it comes to media consumption, people are considerably less inclined to read articles, watch movies, or even read newspaper columns. Multiple Instagram or Twitter sessions would undoubtedly stop such pursuits in order to grasp political stances or any other type of information. For the average millennial/Gen Z'er, reading even a paragraph or viewing a video requires a seemingly "significant" amount of time, yet scrolling through a social media feed may only require a few minutes.
Memes satisfies this urge for quick and efficient media: a few lines strewn across an interesting photo. Memes don't require headphones or a huge screen to observe, making them ideal for the "burnout" generation, according to BuzzFeed.
Because of the shorter attention spans, memes can be used to not just enjoy comedy, but also to "understand" and participate in political activism. Rather of referring to the news or any other credible, bias-free source, people can go to their favourite meme page to learn about the latest issue (arguably just the BBC). This presents itself in a satirical and/or erroneous political and educational perspective, jeopardising our society's knowledge and seriousness as a whole.
One may argue that the lighthearted internet interpretations of some political events or other significant events are merely the lighter side of current events, but in the case of memes, this is often the only side of the media that young generations see.
Funny memes, on the other hand, are amusing and attract a big audience. The addictive way meme pages poke fun at aspects of life we can all relate to — minor pet peeves or relationship jokes alike — is addictive, and their success will continue at staggering rates as the internet takes over society (Forbes even discovered that some meme "traders" were seeing returns of up to 1400 percent).