You're scrolling on Facebook, and a small chuckle flees from your lips. Your life has been a little hectic lately, but a good meme can always make you laugh. In a fast-paced world, we are able to quickly read a short word or phrase provided by memes and then relay the memes to our friends. So why do we relate so much to memes?
1. Memes allow us to communicate
A mechanism of communication for Millennials, our understanding of a meme depends on the words and image.The text takes on a new definition when the image is taken into account.
2. They make us laugh
Laughter is markedly associated with viral memes. While laughter is universal, the source of laughter varies from a group of friends, a nation, and the world. For instance, what you find funny may not be the same thing a 40-year-old Japanese woman considers funny (unless you are a 40-year-old Japanese woman, and in that case, it is likely no two people fitting that description will have the same taste in humor). In the wake of the presidential election, memes can provide comic relief.
3. They make us feel like we are a part of something
A shared sense of humor can also contribute to belongingness, helping us feel like we are a part of something larger than ourselves. By sharing a meme, we become part of a larger group of our friends, community, country, or even the world. By relating to and/or sharing a viral meme, we recognize our shared experience with other humans.
4. We express our emotions through memes
Humor can allow us to explore our identities and situations while not making ourselves vulnerable. When we share memes, we share a part of ourselves. Memes allow us to say things that resonate with us on some level about ourselves or other people. By sharing a viral meme, we are able to express our emotions reluctantly, yet openly to the world. If we express our deepest emotions through memes, the numerous likes and reposts strip us of emotional culpability. We tend to share memes more often when they evoke a strong emotional response. Interestingly, viral content tends to elicit positive and negative emotions simultaneously.
5. We have a need to share with others
When we express our thoughts and feelings, even through memes, the reward system in our brains is activated. While self-disclosure has been described as selfish, it seems that self-disclosure is beneficial to the individual as well as society.
6. We seek knowledge
Memes appeal to us on an emotional and cognitive level. One of the things that make us human is our quest for knowledge, which can be exemplified by the sharing of memes. A superficial understanding of cultural evolution can be derived from memes, but not without the forfeiture of a deeper understanding of the cultural evolution composed by profuse mental representations as well as the cognitive and social mechanisms behind the creation, selection, and transmission of mental representations. Paul Thagard refers to memes as "lazy biological analogy" and encourages people to investigate the spread of ideas through the lens of cognitive social science.