Are we becoming increasingly anti-social because of memes? Are we addicted to our phones and laptops – always looking at memes? Have we lost touch with what’s real and rely on mediated versions of reality?
At first I thought that we as a society had become worryingly anti social, and we have to some extent, although what was classified as social ten years ago is not necessarily the same today. We are glued to our mobiles, tablets, laptops and any other technological devices under the sun as today these are fundamental tools that are deemed necessary in order to socialise with others.
The relationship we have with our devices has developed to a point where we no longer rely on triggers such as a buzz or a ring for us to use them. In a study of 1,100 teens and adults, The Wall Street Journal found that the vast majority of smartphone users under 35 checked in with their electronic devices up to 30 times a day without receiving an alert. This obsession with checking our phones is amplified by memes, we no longer look at our phones to even communicate with others, it’s to browse all of our feeds for entertaining ourselves with interesting content such as memes.
The Wall Street Journal went on to explain how this anti social behaviour was due to us spending ‘so much time maintaining superficial connections online that we aren’t dedicating enough time or effort to cultivating deeper real-life relationships. Too much chatter, too little real conversation.’ This societal faux pas has provided us with shallow, half fulfilled relationships. Evident through the sharing of memes, the usual scenario consists of a friend tagging another friend in a meme with no comment, to which the other friend responds with either ‘hahaha’ or a crying laughing face. This gives no depth to why they find it hilarious or any other opinions on the meme.
Has this made us much less sociable? To an extent, although I believe that memes are changing the way we socialise. This modern communication has created a sort of social sphere that is fed with constant interaction, birthing the idea of ‘Ambient Intimacy’, where social media site allows us to keep in contact with others in a rate that would otherwise be impossible in reality. This constant sharing and tagging of friends in memes allows you to interact with others on level that you couldn’t or wouldn’t maintain in real life.
Memes not only create their own virtual social world, they also provide a basis of pop culture that provides topics for discussion in real life. Memes take popular events and information and turn them into comedic photos and videos. They are so prominent now that you cannot address certain topical issues without discussing the memes that were created around the subject. For example when discussing the presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, you have to address the hilarious meme video manipulating them as though they were singing ‘Time of my life’.