Could Memes Be a Second Language?

Could Memes Be a Second Language?

Memes have taken the internet by storm since their rise to popularity in the early aughts. These graphic images, GIFs, and text posts have several things in common, most of which are their shocking yet humorous contents, and their ability to go viral thanks to their relatability and impact. While teenagers helped elevate these internet pieces ascent the viral ladder, now adults and elders alike are enjoying the fun. In this article, we explore how memes can act as a second language, and explore what makes memes so virally popular.  

Could memes act as a substitute for language?  

While this sounds absurd to previous generations, there have been several scientific studies that point to the efficacy of memes as a substitute or complementary nuance to language as we understand it today. Some memes have reached a level of virality that helps them to cross language and social barriers, and have risen to global popularity. This has connected users from around the world in new ways that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.  

Researchers have found that memes are great icebreakers, and can foster strong relationships. At the beginning of a relationship, whether it is deemed platonic or romantic, it can be difficult to find that initial spark of connection to build into a comfortable conversation. With memes, this process can be streamlined ⸺ and in the age of digitalization, this allows others to communicate and connect in a pandemic-safe way.  

Other studies have found that memes are attractive and novel ways to communicate thanks to the globalization of language that they provide. While there are obvious language barriers between members of different countries, current meme templates allow for a certain unity of language expression that wouldn’t otherwise be found with language learning methods. Our methods of expression may be diverse, but memes help members of the global populous connect with certain presentations of relatable emotions.  

What do all viral memes have in common?  

The range of memes available on the internet are almost as diverse as the members who enjoy them. However, there are certain components that viral memes have in common, and that can be used for your own meme-making use. We’ve summarized a few of these below:  

Relevancy and utility  

Many people use the internet for selfish gain. This isn’t all bad – think of when you scour the sites for the perfect scone recipe, or for a Starbucks near you. Memes incorporate elements of human utility and relevancy, even if that means giving others a voice that echos their beliefs that they wouldn’t be brave enough to share on their own.  


Humor is entirely subjective, but there are certain things that inspire us to laugh…such as a cat shoveling down food from a broken dispenser. Humor is vital to making things go viral, and can give viewers a form of escapism from the stress of current global events.  


Memes should ultimately be shareable. Those on sites that facilitate easy sharing (such as Facebook or Reddit) tend to perform better than those not.  


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