Content may be the fuel that powers the internet, but memes send it into overdrive. Memes are so pervasive that getting through the day without encountering one is almost unthinkable, and their appeal is global. Of course, memes existed before the internet, as the word simply refers to a piece of culture that is transferred from person to person, but online memes have come to dominate the definition. So, why do memes resonate so universally, and why can’t you resist clicking on them? It’s all about being in the know.
Memes are the digital versions of inside jokes.
Being part of an inside joke is a confirmation of social acceptance. Your knowledge of a shared joke makes you part of a specific community and ties you together with the other people who are in on it. Memes are the digital version of that feeling. When you see and share a meme, you’re taking part in an inside joke on a much larger scale. When the meme you share gets shared again and again among your social group, it’s a reconfirmation of your place within your community. Memes offer a little bit of human connection in the digital realm, which can otherwise feel cold and isolating, just like an inside joke can in offline world.
Memes tap into your cultural knowledge.
Not everyone understands every meme that crosses their social media pages. Understanding a meme requires you to have a certain amount of cultural knowledge, and often, it requires you to have knowledge of obscure pop culture references. When people understand a meme, it confirms that they’re hip to the references. There is an in-crowd appeal to memes that boosts people’s confidence in their cool factor when they get the joke.
Memes let people ease the tension.
Memes frequently address topics that are difficult to discuss. Political disagreements, social pressures, and major societal changes can be tackled in memes in a way that makes a point while still eliciting a laugh. People revel in memes that put into words the way they feel about things and that challenge them to think about issues in new ways.
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