“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing”

Mark Twain

Meme? What meme?

According to Britannica.com, an Internet meme (pronounced as miːm) or more commonly referred to as a meme, “often take the form of pictures, videos, or other media containing cultural information that, rather than mutating randomly, have been deliberately altered by individuals”. Emerging from the Internet culture, memes gained popularity in the early 21st century and spreads from people to people via various methods such as social media and instant messaging services like WhatsApp and LINE.

meme hanging with friends in 2020
An example of a COVID-19 related meme. Image via Graphic Design Forum website.

Memes became more popular amongst netizens (internet citizens) since the start of the pandemic. People began sharing COVID-related meme as a way to share their feelings whilst interacting with others online, once thought of as a ‘Band-Aid solution’ to the physical isolation brought on by the pandemic. With the global pandemic stretching for over a year, however, this ‘Band-Aid solution’ suddenly seemed like it is becoming a ‘new lifestyle’.

Interestingly, though, the word “meme” was first introduced by a British evolutionary biologist named Richard Dawkins in 1976, deriving the word from the Greek word mimema, which means “imitated”. While Dawkins consider Internet memes as a different representation to the meme concept introduced in his work The Selfish Gene, it is indeed interesting to see how the word hit the world by storm especially during the pandemic.

So, what is the point of memes?

A Couple of Memes a Day .....

A recent research published in the Psychology of Popular Media established that meme viewing, especially those that helps meme viewers relate to a highly stressful context, may have the potential of supporting viewers with their coping efforts with the situation.

Spearheaded by researcher Jessica Gall Myrick, professor of media studies at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, the research found that meme viewing was “associated with stronger cuteness responses, higher levels of reported humor, more positive emotions, and lower levels of information processing” (APA PsycNet®).

Back to the future meme do not go to 2020
Great Scott! A meme based on the popular Back to the Future movie?
Image via Gold Coast Bulletin website.

Professor Myrick said, “What we found was that if you viewed memes, you were in a better mood which made you feel more confident in your ability to cope with life during the pandemic”.

While the results from the research did not support the reduction of stress levels related to the pandemic, when compared with the non-memes, memes helped increased positive emotions that assisted users in coping with the pandemic.

Humor is no joke. Pun intended.

As the saying goes, laughter is indeed the best medicine. Studies have shown that laughter can relieve stress. An article by the University of St. Augustine in 2019 mentioned a few examples of scientifically proven effects of stress relief through laughing, including the improvement of cardiac health, the lowering of blood pressure from endorphins released during laughter, and 10 interesting ways to add more laughter in one’s life. Interestingly, the no.1 recommendation is to “follow a funny meme account”.

Following a funny meme account is the no.1 recommendation by the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Image via the University of St. Augustine website.

Humor has always been a big part of life. The Archanians is oldest surviving play produced in 425 B.C., also known as Greek Old Comedy. Even from a long time ago, people have acknowledged the importance of having a good laugh.

In Japan, Rakugo is a popular traditional Japanese comedy featuring a storyteller playing the part of multiple characters to convey an elaborately complex comical story. In recent years, Rakugo is increasingly being told in English. With the likes of Katsura Kaishi and Katsura Sunshine popularizing Rakugo in English, the world could enjoy a glimpse of Japanese storytelling and humor.

To understand what Rakugo is all about, check out this video of Rakugo in English by Katsura Sunshine, the first foreign-born artist to introduce Rakugo internationally.

Rakugo in English by Katsura Sunshine. Video via Sunshine’s YouTube channel.

Is it TIME to Evolve Our Communication Method?

Communication has evolved over time since the caveman period to the internet age. As evolution becomes more rapid, it is only a matter of time before newer and trendier communication methods are invented to attract the diminishing attention span of the modern-day people. The younger generation have been growing up ⬆️ with the convenience of the internet 🌏, opting for GIFs, emojis 😊, and the latest memes to better convey their thoughts and feelings. 🤩😱😑😡

With the evolution of communication method, businesses need to keep up with the current trends to ensure business sustainability. The founders of POPCONfest (in short for popular content), Southeast Asia’s first Business Influencer school have also recommended their followers and fellow students to embrace emojis and memes to better connect with their audience. And it seems like the trend is catching up fast, businesspeople are rapidly embracing it on their LinkedIn posts as a way to humanizing communication and connection with each other.

evolution of communication
Evolution of communication. Image via The Denver Post.

Humor in a Nutshell

Since humor brings about laughter that triggers the release of the feel-good endorphins, we should capitalize on the positive effects of laughter by incorporating it into our daily routine. From viewing and sharing funny memes with family and friends to watching some funny videos on YouTube, there are many ways of incorporating humor.

If you are new to memes, try searching for some memes on your social media feed and interact with other users. If you are shy, you can always reach out to someone you know to share more about memes. For starters, ask someone this: “What is the latest meme you saved on your phone?”.  It is never too late to keep yourself updated with the latest communication trend on the internet!

Of course, if you feel like you know what memes are and you are up for the next challenge, consider generating your own memes. Sites like imgflip and memegenerator.net are good options to start with. If you are familiar with Canva, you can also experiment with meme creation using that!

Wishing you a meme-fantastic and humorous journey to finding better ways to cope with stress in life!

Main image is a popular meme featuring Boromir from the Lord of the Rings movie, saying “one does not simply … walk into Moldor!”. Image generated using imgflip
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Michelle Lim

Michelle Lim

Creative Consultant, JCE Japan Creative Enterprise