I hope Wholesome Memes are the start of a new paradigm.

2016 has seen a new genre of internet memes gain prominence – ‘Wholesome Memes’.

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I first noticed them on the /r/wholesomememes subreddit, and have since taken to following the Best of Wholesome Memes Facebook page.

These image macros are intended to be genuinely positive and happy. Here’s a few good ones

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What can be considered a ‘wholesome meme’ isn’t just restricted to image macros. For example I disovered this song on my Spotify which follows the same theme.

There is also nice Facebook pages like Genuinely Stoked Goats.

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The internet and social media is a very new phenomena, and trends develop. From rick rolling, to crowdfunding, to parties that get a million attendees, to fake news and clickbait, and online shaming.

A notable example is the Justine Sacco case – where a woman made an arguably tasteless joke on Twitter before boarding a plane, and the internet relished in causing as much trouble for her as possible before she landed and was back in touch with the internet. (This Ted Talk here gives a very good rundown of the phenomena).

It’s apparent that the internet thrives on attention. The content that will be successful- whether for good for bad, is content that engages internet users.

This why negative content can be so prevalent. Clickbait and fake news work by packing something interesting into a single sentence. Outrage and online shaming works by inflaming the emotion of anger – giving users a rush of adrenaline.

A ‘users are addicted to the internet’ model helps explain the phenomena. Imagine internet users collectively as a group of brain dead zombies looking for their rush or adrenaline or endorphins. They’re going to be seeking out content that triggers that reaction, and sharing content that will get likes, likes also providing validation and simulation.

The result is – all of this negative content can make us cynical and frustrated about the state of the world. And that can lead to a ‘just want to watch the world’ burn kind of attitude, that gets Donald Trump elected, or gets someone to go on a mass shooting.

But – content that makes us smile also creates engagement and causes a flood of endorphins. The answer seems pretty simple; even if people are addicted to the internet – is it a problem if what they’re sharing is happy pictures and gifs that make them smile or laugh? Is that not a kind of utopia?

My Facebook feed has pretty good recently. It’s mostly pictures of goats, puns, trippy gifs, and wholesome memes. If you subscribe to a ‘you are what you consume’ philosophy, this is a pretty healthy diet.

My hope is that this a continuing trend – that people are going to be more deliberate about the content they share and create, with intention of flooding the internet with happy, positive content.

On the Facebook rainbow profile pic phenomena.

By now you’re probably aware of the Facebook rainbow profile pic phenomena.

In the wake of the US Supreme Court decision to legalise gay marriage nation wide, Facebook instituted a feature to allow someone to rainbowify their profile picture.

Whenever someone changed their profile picture, the link to change the profile picture was displayed with it.

This was very much a viral phenomena, in that it required people to see someone on their newsfeed changing their profile picture, before you had the option to option to change it. It’s not like Facebook displayed a flashing banner to all Facebook users alerting them of this feature.

So I thought this was cool, and I changed my profile picture as soon as I saw it.

I took this screenshot of my chat list at the time.

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I’ve rotated the screen cap to the right, so it fits on the page nicely.

Through out the day I saw about 30 people of my ~300 Facebook friends change their profiles. Certainly a lot of people were changing their profiles, but the penetration wasn’t as complete as I thought I might be. Ok, sure some of my Facebook friends might not be active enough to see the phenomena (you have to actually see the profile pic change on your newsfeed to see the link), and others, (as was the case for at least one of my friends), might not have seen the link and realised how easy it was.

However, it seems apparent to the people not changing their profile pictures were making a concious decision not too. There’s no way you could all the profile picture changes, see the link and it not occur to you to change your profile pic either.*

*I guess to be fair, some people might have seen it as ‘just a meme’ that they’re just not that into.

The way I see it, there are two reasons one might not rainbowify their profile pic.

1. They don’t support gay marriage.

I would suspect that for at least a few of my Facebook friends, this would be the case.

2. Resisting ‘bandwagoning’.

That is – recognising that the reason everyone else is doing it, is because everyone else is doing it, and asserting your sense of identity by not following the social trend.

And certainly I saw a few posts the reflected this:

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Or my personal favourite:

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I agree that the reason people, including myself, were changing their profile pictures is was more to take part in a social trend, than soley to express their support of gay marriage. That is, peoples’ feelings were ‘I support gay marriage, and hey this trend is cool’.

But I think what’s important here, is that the social trend has a good feeling behind it. It’s similar to the ice bucket challenge, totally harmless, but is in support of a good cause.

And fun viral social phenomenas are fun! 😀 They’re very interesting – given that everyone does infact inhabit the same world, it’s interesting to see what we can do when we all have a common purpose. (In this case, rainbowifying our profile pictures xD).

Here’s what my chat list is looking like tonight. Curiously enough, this is the most populated I’ve seen it, and it’s more than half a week later. I’ve even changed my profile pic back. Most of the profile pic changes I saw, were in the first day.

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