Memes are making us fatter, according to actual science

22 October 2018, 15:51

Confused Nick Young / Woman eating burger
Confused Nick Young / Woman eating burger. Picture: Getty Creative
Jazmin Duribe

By Jazmin Duribe

Everyone loves a meme but UK academics have found that they could be contributing to the rise in obesity.

Our quest for a chiselled summer body has been pushed to 2019 and it's definitely not because of all the burgers we ate... It's the memes that have actually been contributing to this extra cushion – yeah, seriously.

Although they may seem like a big joke, memes often make light of weight gain, researchers from Loughborough University have found. Teenagers are particularly at risk, which means your favourite meme could be much more sinister than you thought.

"Young teenagers increasingly search for health information online and concurrently maintain a significant social media presence," the researchers wrote in a letter sent to a British parliamentary committee.

The Best Memes Of 2018 (So Far)...

"Accompanying the vast reach of social media are concerns about the potential for the spread of both misinformation and potentially health damaging Internet memes."

The study found that there were "negative messages" associated with memes, citing that many "contain inappropriate material."


They also noted that memes could potentially "normalise undesirable behaviours."

One meme used as an example to demonstrate how dangerous the images could be showed an overweight child with the caption, "Free food? Count me in!" Another picture that sparked concern was that of a human body created using fast food. Pizzas and burgers were used for the body, sausages for limbs and a potato smiley for the face.

The image was captioned "me" and pitted against three sculpted physiques alongside it.

"Internet memes are generally viewed as entertaining but they also represent a body of cultural practice that does not account for the specific needs and rights of teenagers," the researchers added. "If Internet memes carry political, corporate or other agendas without priorities tailored to the needs of 13-16-year-olds then they have the potential to do harm on a large scale."

"We need to know the types of health information/knowledge that teenagers are exposed to because social media is an increasingly central aspect of their daily lives and social interactions."

Now obviously the internet reacted the only way they could, with sarcasm, and of course more memes.

Memes have been getting a lot of hate recently.

In September, the European Parliament passed a copyright law that could mean the end of memes for good. Meanwhile Sweden's advertising watchdog ruled that the distract boyfriend meme, which did the rounds on social media in 2017, is sexist.