Memes & Mind

Prashant Singh
17 min readAug 16, 2021

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Memes & Mind

Memes are cultural phenomenon that quickly gained popularity on the internet. Modifications and spoofs provide additional aspects to a concept and are frequently utilised to acquire public attention on the internet since they span social and cultural borders. Because of their enormous reach, they have been advantageous to individuals such as marketing experts and comic book artists.

Case Study Objective: We’ll look at how well-known online memes affect mental health and the marketing practices as part of this study.

Introduction

The phrase “internet meme” describes a situation in which material or ideas spread quickly among online users. It refers to Richard Dawkins’ (1976) idea of memes as a cultural equivalent of DNA, which explains how rumors, catchphrases, tunes, and fashion fads spread across a community. Internet memes spread through email, instant messaging, forums, blogs, and social networking sites in their most basic form.

They frequently contain odd news, websites, catch phrases, photos, or video snippets as content.

Simply said, Internet memes are inside jokes or bits of cool underground information that a large number of people are aware of. Commentary, imitations, and parodies, as well as relevant news in other media, are common ways for Internet memes to emerge. Most Internet memes travel quickly, with some gaining and losing popularity in a matter of days.

Memes are shared on a voluntary, peer-to-peer basis rather than being forced. Their spread via social networks does not follow predefined patterns and frequently defies control.

The phenomena of Internet memes has recently sparked increased public interest. Knowyourmeme.com, memedump.com, and memebase.com are popular websites that treat memes as works of art and offer histories of their origins and growth.

Companies like Supermeme.ai has created an A.I tool which creates Memes for Marketing and Promotional Purposes.

Public relations and advertising professionals have also adopted Internet memes. There are examples of memes that were created specifically to generate exposure for businesses or services in viral marketing. Finally, political campaigns are increasingly attempting to sway public opinion by creating Internet memes. They’re designed to project a trendy image, however most people are interested in the material for trivia or amusement rather than for knowledge.

History of Memes

The concept of memes isn’t new: it first appeared in evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book “The Selfish Gene”, where it had a different connotation than it has now.

It is “a unit of cultural transmission,” according to Dawkins, the cultural counterpart of a gene:

“The new replicator needs a name, a term that expresses the concept of a unit of cultural transmission or imitation. ‘Mimeme’ has a good Greek base, but I’m looking for a monosyllable that sounds like ‘gene.’ If I abbreviate mimeme to meme, I trust my classicist friends would forgive me. If it’s any consolation, it’s also linked to the term’memory,’ or the French word même. It should be spoken in a way that sounds like ‘cream.’”

Dawkins went on to describe what exactly the word was intended to refer to:

“Tune, ideas, catchphrases, clothing trends, pot-making techniques, and arch-building techniques are all examples of memes. Memes replicate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain by a process that may be referred to as imitation in the broad sense, much as genes do in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs.”

An idea, habit, style, or use that travels from person to person within a culture,” according to this definition.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the word was included in an update of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary’s Tenth Edition. Despite the fact that Dawkins originated the phrase in a 1976 book, it took more than 20 years for examples of the word in usage to show that it was a fully established term in the language.

So lets jump to see the Impact of internet memes on Mental Health & Business Marketing

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT…before knowing about it, lets learn more about memes, the types and why the new generation likes it.

Types of Memes

We categorized memes based on our internet study and naming some of them after they were separated.

  • The Classics: Back when memes were specifically a mascot, a character, a situation and not jokes or references associated with certain images.
  • The Trenders: These are the most commonplace on the internet nowadays. Created on a whim, they survive at best for a month before disappearing into the abyss of the internet.
  • The One-Hit Wonder: These memes are rarest, Trends for a short while before losing momentum.
  • The Social Media: the cliche, grossing memes which every other social media page uses to gain followers.
  • The Series: These memes tend to be either made or compiled into a collection.Like the doggo story series or political trolling memes.
  • The Niche: These under-the-table memes are the ones that are somehow only available to a very specific audience. Redditors happen to be the major practitioners for these kind of memes,
  • The Obscurity: These types of memes are not understood by many and are only shared in small cult-like groups. Anime followers (Weebs) or Car Fanatics often share such memes.
  • The O.G: Organically made, always fresh, you can’t help but love these memes. It doesnt trend much but a creator creates it themselves.
  • The Puntastic: These memes have a lot of puns, Grammar Nazis love them.
  • The Education: This category is more of a ranting category. Most of it consists of ranting about the education system of a country. Remember the “How to do taxes” Captions?

So…why does the newer generation like the memes?

Well…Now lets have a look at the research we did to understand how people perceive or consume memes.

Research Approach

Research Groups

We divided people into groups based on their age, political/social affiliation, religion, sexual preferences, and occupations, and then tested them on the following characteristics.

Classification of People

Age: 16–18, 19–21, 22–24, 25–27, 28–30, 31–33, 34–36

Political/Social Ideology: Communist, Socialist, Liberal, Conservative

Religion: Hindus, Muslims, Buddhist, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Atheist

Sexual Preferences: Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Asexual

Occupation: High School Student, College Students, Freshers, Working Class, Government Employees, Education/Teachers, Service Class

The Trigger Test

We began by showing them several Memes that would either make them happy or unhappy after carefully differentiating/categorising them into subgroups. (This is referred to as a Triggering Reaction.)

For obvious reasons we cannot show the memes or visuals we showed them as it could be quite sensitive (phew wouldn’t want to get cancelled online)

Someone with a communist ideology, for example, was shown memes that were pro-communism and memes that were anti-communism. Certainly, the reactions were as expected. Some people were offended by the memes and wanted to report them, while others were unconcerned.

A notable conclusion of this activity was that many 16–23 year olds were unable to accept or ignore a meme that contradicted their Ideology/Beliefs/Sexual Preferences. Many people in their mid-twenties, on the other hand, were able to dismiss them and gave feedback as to why they were able to ignore/accept it and go on.

Some of the statements or feedbacks were

Well now you know why the young guns get triggered easily.

With this test, we first concluded that with time (age) and maturity, people begin to accept what is presented at them and begin to grasp situations/scenarios. The Kubler Ross Model/Theory is likewise linked to this psychological issue.

What is Kubler Ross Model?

The Kübler-Ross model, sometimes known as the Five Stages of Grieving, is a prominent theory on how people deal with death, loss, and grief established by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The hypothesis was created to assist terminally sick patients in accepting their approaching death.

The model involves five stages that do not necessarily occur in any particular order:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The model considers our reactions to death, rejection, and criticism, whether it be our own or that of a loved one. This is our mind’s attempt to cope with the emotional and psychological stress of losing someone we care about or receiving criticism or rejection. People who are grieving will not always go through all of the phases or in the sequence described below.

This model suggests how people go through multiple stages of grieving or simply say being affected. With sensitive memes a similar process is followed.

Now that we know why people of different age, culture or community have different perspective towards memes, lets understand how fast these memes become a trend and loose the shine.

Trend Adoption Curve/ Rogers’ Bell Curve

Many people in our study had already seen particular memes, and many were meme creators or promoters. This led us to Roger’s Bell Curve, which is concerned with trend adoption. Frequently, a trend becomes a public bandwagoning activity/movement.

Unlike the Technology or Product Adoption Curves the meme’s trend curve is projected for a week at most.

  • The Innovators are the original authors, creating a meme out of a particular situation, a cultural reference or such.
  • Early Adopters are usually active social media personalities who have an audience to cater to. They use the meme to gain a following on social media platforms.
  • Early Majority consume memes from popular but usually non mainstream media. This is usually the highest point of the lifespan of a meme.
  • Late majority are usually, in a manner of speaking, “bullied” into consuming the meme via direct or indirect peer pressure.
  • Laggards are the “out of the loop” audience, consuming a meme usually for nostalgic purposes.

Survey Analysis

We ran a survey to learn more about the perspectives of people who regularly consume and share memes. Over the course of four days, 141 people completed the survey. The respondents were asked the following questions concerning their opinions on memes.

Male respondents account for 47.5 percent of the total, while female respondents account for 49.6 percent. The remainder of them identify as non-binary and would rather not say. Because of the balanced gender replies, the poll does not favor one gender over another and gives findings that reflect population equality.

The respondents were mostly between the ages of 19 and 25, with 17 percent under the age of 18 and 15.6 percent between the ages of 26 and 40. This information helped us choose people for interviews and understand more about their cognitive processes.

Most people sleep for at least 5–7 hours, followed by 8–10 hours. The respondents’ use of the internet for such a lengthy period of time might be for a variety of reasons, but it also gives them plenty of opportunity to come across various sorts of memes, which can alter their minds in a variety of ways.

Memes have become a phenomenon that has expanded across various social media platforms. Memes have become a popular means of communication. The majority of the respondents were familiar with memes and were able to comprehend the content conveyed through this style.

Respondents utilise YouTube and Netflix, which are designed for entertainment purposes, on a daily basis. Because the majority of the respondents are from the younger generations, they do not utilise the internet to access news or academic websites. Such use trends reveal where memes may gain the most attention on the internet.

Respondents utilise YouTube and Netflix, which are designed for entertainment purposes, on a daily basis. Because the majority of the respondents are from the younger generations, they do not utilise the internet to access news or academic websites. Such use trends reveal where memes may gain the most attention on the internet.

Respondents spend a lot of time on the internet and utilize a lot of social media sites. However, it is clear that distributing memes is not a common practice. Because of the reduced percentage of memes shared, it may be assumed that respondents only share the most controversial or memorable memes. In the case of memes, such sharing patterns might imply the creation of an echo chamber.

There are a variety of reasons why people share memes. 81.6 percent of those who responded said they shared to make others laugh. This positive sharing personality feature shows that respondents only share memes that are current in nature or that they find noteworthy.

Respondents describe their humour styles as positive, preferring humorous, quirky, stupid, or dark memes. Some people enjoy cynical memes, although many people do not find comedy in negative forms such as suicidal or insulting. This characteristic gives information on how memes are consumed. Such characteristics may be leveraged in marketing to build positive images of products and services.

Memes have an influence on mental health, according to 46.1 percent of respondents. However, a sizable portion of respondents are unsure about memes’ influence on mental health. These sorts of comments highlight the fact that many people consume memes without realising the influence they have on them, or that their meme consumption is modest in comparison to their internet and social media usage.

The contentious nature of respondents’ reactions to memes’ impact on mental health is especially obvious here. Many people are unable to create a clear objective answer because they do not have a good understanding of the situation. This ambiguity presents us with a gap to investigate and try to figure out how memes affect various groups of individuals.

Respondents favour sites like Pubity, Scoop Whoop, TedtheStoner, RVCJ Media, and others, where memes are more accessible, lack edginess, and appeal to a broad audience. These kind of meme pages appeal to a broader readership. Many of these Social Media pages tend to spread Political/Social Propaganda and as most of the consumers are young, the naive minds gets easily manipulated. At times these pages have promoted or posted questionable content which has often been identified Anti-National/Human.

Meme & Mind

Memes aid in the release of stress through laughing, the connection with others who have similar viewpoints or lifestyles, and the illumination of a topic that may be sensitive or contentious.

Three things are important to us as humans: love, self-esteem, and security.
Belongingness is emphasized in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is why we relate to and resonate with memes, which provides a sense of identity.

We join groups out of a sense of belonging, and this affiliation with meme culture is often accompanied with a sense of “I’m not alone.”

Memes & Brain

Memes allow us to communicate with our inner selves.
Our brain is divided into two halves. Our limbic brain, which is where our emotions originate, is the first.
Our limbic brain is responsible for why we do what we do in life. Our prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of language and speech, is the second.
Previously, cavemen could only communicate through sign language. Their prefrontal cortex evolved later, and languages emerged.

Prefrontal Cortex

Today, if someone asks us why we pursue education for a job, we will pause for a moment. It will ring in our limbic brain, and we will know the answer but will be unable to express it in a timely manner. Our prefrontal cortex will go into the limbic brain, extract information, and then articulate it using our prefrontal cortex’s language function.

Memes operate on the same principle, since they communicate directly with our inner sentiments without the necessity for verbalization.
We expect others to interpret between the lines rather than stating flatly, “This is how we feel/want.” In such event, individuals would make snap decisions, trust will erode over time, and we will feel alone and unhappy. Instead, spreading memes and reaching out to individuals will enhance trust and social connection or manipulate (read propaganda)

Issues with Memes

Because there is a chance of a link between memes and a sensitive subject, memes are not necessarily good and useful.
Also, many individuals are easily upset if a meme is made about their views or lifestyles.
As a result, it’s a really hypocritical issue among meme consumers

Sensitive jokes/memes are helpful

It is not inappropriate to make a joke or a meme about a tragic, social, or political issue. It brings comfort, especially to people who have been through a traumatic event or period.

For example, a German is more likely than the ordinary individual to like a Nazi/Jewish joke or meme.
Because they are more aware of the context of the tragedy/phase, they are better able to distinguish between a joke and an insult.

Memes, Depression & Physiology

  • Memes are coping mechanism for people with mental health issues
  • Memes generate a way to look at current events in a more positive light, or at least to make it seem more positive.
  • Memes have become a way for people to cope with stress, because it gives them a reason to laugh about what is causing them stress.

Memes on depression, suicide, and mental health might help you forget about your problems and not feel so bad. Provides a sense of belonging and the ability to analyse one’s own position.

One of the key benefits of memes is that they can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Laughing and smiling, which are common responses to memes, have been shown to release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that can reduce pain and improve mood. This can help to lower cortisol levels, which is a hormone that is associated with stress.

Memes can also help to improve social connections. Sharing memes with friends and family can help to build stronger relationships and create a sense of community. This can have a positive impact on mental health, as social connections have been shown to protect against depression and anxiety.

Memes can also be beneficial for cognitive function. They can be used as a form of mental stimulation, as they often require the viewer to think critically about the meaning or context of the meme. This can help to keep the mind active and can also be used as a form of stress relief.

Following are the Physiological Benefits of Memes: -

  • Confidence after knowing people relate, agree (Stance Changes)
  • More Expressive
  • More Enthusiastic
  • More Listening

Sleep Cycle

  • Happy Mind sleeps better
  • Active Mind sleeps easily
  • Storytelling people often have amusing or abnormal dreams/nightmares

Happiness

  • Scientific evidence suggests that being happy may have major benefits for our health.
  • Being happy promotes a healthy lifestyle. It may also help combat stress, boost our immunity system, protect our heart and reduce pain.
  • What’s more, it may even increase our life expectancy.

In conclusion, memes can be more than just a source of entertainment. They can have physiological benefits that can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve social connections, and promote cognitive function. They can be a useful tool to boost mental well-being, but it’s important to use them in moderation and not to be overly exposed to negative or harmful memes that can cause distress.

Memes, Business & Marketing

Knowyourmeme.com, memedump.com, and memebase.com are popular websites that treat memes as works of art and offer histories of their origins and growth.

Public relations and advertising professionals have also adopted Internet memes. There are examples of memes that were created specifically to generate exposure for businesses or services in viral marketing.There are several ways in which memes can be beneficial for marketing.

  • First, memes can increase brand awareness. By using memes that are popular or trending, brands can tap into the cultural conversation and gain visibility among a wider audience. This can be especially useful for smaller brands that may not have the resources for a large-scale advertising campaign.
  • Second, memes can be used to connect with consumers on a more personal level. By creating memes that align with the brand’s values or target audience, brands can create a sense of relatability and authenticity with their audience. This can lead to increased trust and loyalty among consumers.
  • Third, memes can be used to generate user-generated content. By encouraging customers to create their own memes based on a brand’s products or services, companies can create a sense of community and engagement among their audience.

In conclusion, memes can be a powerful tool for marketing. By increasing brand awareness, creating a sense of relatability, and encouraging user-generated content, memes can help companies connect with their audience in an authentic and engaging way. However, it’s important to keep in mind that memes can be sensitive and culturally specific, so it’s crucial for brands to be mindful of the memes they choose to use, and the audience they are targeting.

Memes & Politics

Finally, political campaigns are increasingly attempting to sway public opinion by creating Internet memes.
They’re designed to project a trendy image, however most people are interested in the material for trivia or amusement rather than for knowledge.

One of the ways memes are used in politics is through political satire. Satirical memes can be used to criticize or mock political figures or policies in a way that is easily digestible and shareable for the public. This can be a powerful tool for holding politicians accountable and generating public discussion.

Another way memes are used in politics is through political advertising. Political campaigns can create memes that align with their campaign message or values and use them as a form of digital advertising. These memes can be shared on social media platforms and can reach a wide audience in a relatively short amount of time.

Memes can also be used to mobilize and engage young voters. As the internet and social media have become an integral part of young people’s lives, memes have become a way for them to consume and engage with political content. Political campaigns that use memes that are popular among young people can help to increase voter turnout among that demographic.

In conclusion, memes have become an important tool in political campaigns and political discourse. They can be used to hold politicians accountable through satire, as a form of political advertising, and to mobilize and engage young voters. However, it’s important to note that memes can also be used to spread misinformation and propaganda, so it’s crucial for voters to critically evaluate the source and context of the memes they encounter during political campaigns.

Results & Conclusion (to be updated)

Memes help in Mental Health Issues and are useful tools for Marketing.

Every day, the typical person spends about two hours on social media, according to reports.
Memes are a widespread currency on social media and a big element of online culture, among other material. A lot of businesses are recognising the value of memes as a marketing technique. Memes are defined as “any craze, joke, or memorable piece of information that spreads virally throughout the web, generally accompanied by a funny caption.”

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