Here’s What We Can Learn from Memes

  • The importance of timeliness and relevance. Memes are dependent on timing. A meme’s relevance to current events affects the likelihood of people being influenced by it. Generally, memes that include irrelevant or outdated content won’t fly and die an early death. Successful memes may also refer to a wide variety of events, arts, and cultural themes to reach a particular target group. The more relevant a meme is, the more likely people will interact with and share it. Cultural relevance and trendiness are crucial aspects of what makes memes successful, regardless of categorization. We saw countless memes during the recent 2020 US presidential elections. They all jumped on a particular event or gaffe and were bandied about on social media literally every moment the divisive campaign played out.
  • Social validation. Relatability is another crucial factor of successful memes because they can validate an individual’s beliefs and opinions. That’s what we call social validation: the inclination of people to look to their peers to determine whether their behaviors are socially acceptable. Successful memes use social validation tactics to foster a sense of group identity.
  • Humor. We can’t forget the importance of humor in memes because their primary purpose is to make audiences laugh. Generally, memes are successful when they’re accessible, humorous, and easy to understand for a global audience. Determining such qualities in a meme is all dependent on the audience that the meme was targeted to. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the more people can identify, appreciate, and relate to a meme’s style of humor, the more likely it will go spread. This critical relation between text and images makes memes different from mere photos with captions. The most successful memes combine visual and textual elements to create multiple contextual meanings. The more an image is used with changing text, or vice-versa, the more potential it has to capture attention and subsequently be shared with more individuals — much akin to how wildfire spreads.
  • Diversity. Memes are also relatable because of their sheer diversity — there’s a meme for every person out there, each with its own basis for success. On one end, we have “dank” memes, which are the controversial, edgy memes, or wholesome ones that are generally light-hearted. Meanwhile, generic memes can discuss broader themes such as what student life or a particular profession is like, which expands the appeal of memes to almost everyone.

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