In the recent years, the internet has been taken over by a powerful force that seems to sustain itself, perpetually; memes. They are found in all kinds of languages and cultures and they all have a social truth hidden behind the veil of humor. Can memes affect our mental health? Are they means of catharsis or therapy?
History of Memes
Now before we get into the interesting bits we need to know our history. The word ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’. He had used it as a genetic component that imitates and transfers ideas, behavior or style from person to person in a culture. Now, Dawkins had used it more as a scientific term for genetic biology but if there is something the internet does well is that it waters down a complex phenomenon to a joke; in this case, literally.
Memes & Mental Health
Now we get to the fun part. What role can they play in recovery from mental illnesses? In recent times it has been observed that people find communicating through memes easier than straight forward interaction. We try to express our agony with a veil of humor to make it seem more acceptable. If you go through a Reddit thread on mental illness, you will find a lot of memes talking about suicidal ideation, self harm, self pity and other concepts like social isolation. Here are some examples.
So you see, we have found a way to talk about our insecurities, vulnerabilities, thoughts and emotions in a way that seems socially acceptable and also gets our point across. Although, I must say that using memes to communicate isn’t very emotionally healthy but it is better than keeping it all in.
It wasn’t long back that we were desperately asking people struggling with their thoughts to open up and now we have a way! This might seem ridiculous at first hearing but I believe that meme therapy can actually develop as a field over time. It would be similar to music therapy and use various tools to help people express themselves using memes.
Memes could actually save lives. If you are feeling something you feel uncomfortable sharing directly, make it a meme and send it to someone. It could help you.
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