British Academics Say that Memes Are Contributing to Obesity

Fellow kids Meme

A group of British academics told lawmakers that memes are contributing to the United Kingdom’s obesity crisis.

A letter sent from a group of concerned academics to British lawmakers argues that memes are corrupting children and encouraging them to engage in self-destructive behaviors. The academics contend that memes that include offensive content could lead to children adopting objectionable beliefs.

Our provisional inquiries show that a substantial number of individuals on Twitter share health related Internet memes, with both positive and negative messages, through their public accounts. Such is the pervasiveness of Internet memes that the vast majority of sharers display little, if any, emotion when sharing these memes: many of which contain inappropriate material or ridicule others by race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, body shape, religion, diet etc. When viewed in this way, Internet memes have the potential to normalise undesirable behaviours such as trolling, body shaming and bullying, and a lack of emotion may be indicative of a larger apathy with regards to such practice.

The academics go on to suggest that memes tagged with the hashtag “#fitnessaddict” could “normalize” unhealthy behaviors in children.

Considering that Internet memes can often normalise unhealthy behaviours, figure 1 highlights that a significantly large proportion of tweets across the three hashtags tended to contain the emotion of happiness. It is worth noting that nearly twice as much emotion was expressed in tweets containing #tea than in those containing #meme, and #fitnessaddict and nearly five time more than those containing #flexibledieting.

Recently, a group of Swedish lawmakers decided that the “distracted boyfriend” meme was sexist. The lawmakers said that the meme objectifies women and suggest that men can “change their partners in the same way they would change jobs.”

This week, Breitbart News reported on the “NPC meme,” which depicts partisan progressives as robotic conformists who spout talking points in response to world events. The meme has been used to mock everything from NBC to Che Guevara.


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