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The Power of Cat Memes

Great, colossal achievements have always catapulted mankind into the next newest age. The steam engine that started the industrial age; the splitting of the atom that brought us the atomic age; the internet which began the information age; then cats…that opened up a channel feeding from the information age that began the volatile and extremely funny meme age. Thank god for the meme age.

 
 

The term “meme” was introduced by the biologist Richard Dawkins in the late 70s as a way to describe a “cultural gene.” Memes are then units of culture and behaviour that spread, are assimilated and reciprocated by us to express or transmit meaning. Memes come in the form of Rick Astley videos, dances, catchphrases but one surpasses them all.

inventor cat meme apollo brush

Cats are a phenomenon. They have dominated the internet and whether you like them or not it is impossible to deny that they are kings of the internet. They have conquered the web using memes as their platform to sore onto our screens so that they can be enjoyed and easily shared, allowing them to spread like wildfire.


If you type “cat meme” on Google, you get About 439,000,000 results in 0.54 seconds. According to ReelSEO.com people have watched cat videos of YouTube more than 25 billion times. That works out to every single person in the world watching at least 4 cat videos on the internet. You can’t escape it; cats are literally everywhere.


Their rise to prominence began in the early 90s. Cat pictures where already being shared via email; even the first video on YouTube was a cat video posted by their co-founder Steve Chen. Cats had potential to be in the internet’s Hall of Fame from the get-go however, according to major media outlets there is not much data to support that they are more popular than other animals on the internet.


If that's true then what makes them get more views and exposure is the ability to go viral more quickly with greater frequency. The internet is so easy to access in the UK and USA. These are also the countries where pet cats are most popular - stay with me here.

Dog owners have the ability to be social in parks and is this is seen as a cultural norm. On the other hand, if a cat owner were to take their cat to a park (which is great by the way) there is a cultural stigma attached to that – "OH OK! He’s the crazy cat guy, yeah so what? I wear the t-shirt."


Because cat lovers don’t have that park to socialize in, cat owners use the internet as their social park, and with the easy access to photos and the internet all on their phone, user generated content for cats is huge! The internet has given a voice to cat lovers, empowering them to be more vocal about their furry companions, resulting in a snowball effect of attention to cats online.


The power of a meme is its power to imitated, adapted and reciprocated. Cats being the expressive creatures that they are, are easily able to be anthropomorphized i.e. given human characteristics. This reduces any barriers to enjoy the content and relate to it. Putting you into a position where you want to share it to others that will be able to relate and enjoy it too; or otherwise, it can be easily adapted to suit your personal network.


Therefore even though cat's popularity over other animals may not be proven, the abundance of content, the loyalty of the users to the media channels and the ability for the content to be easily adapted to the user network’s tastes have deservedly given cat’s the crown and jewels of the internet.


How does the cat cultural phenomenon affect our lifes?


This may be oversimplifying the psychology behind it; however the bottom line is that cat videos makes us laugh, they surprise us, peak our curiosity and spark emotion. We choose the media based on its excitatory potential, absorption potential, semantic affinity, and hedonic valence; cats so easily transmit these things.


We might not realise this but cat memes delve us into the space of Mood Management Theory. This theory demonstrates that we consume media that will dissipate aversive emotional states or maintain positive ones. Basically cat videos can never kill your vibe.

inventor cat meme apollo brush

The positive power that cat content has on our mental wellbeing is noticed by large media outlets. There is a Twitter account called “emergency kittens” and they state on their bio that its Twitter feed is designed ‘‘for when you need a kitten (or another type of cat) to cheer you up!’’.


We can therefore evidence that cat media content could provide similar outcomes of that found in pet therapy, although perhaps to a lesser degree because there isn’t any physical interaction. Pet therapy indicates that time spent with real pets can improve mood and wellbeing. Research on ‘‘the media equation’’ argues that media users typically react to mediated content as if it were occurring in real life and hence can receive the same benefits as a patient receiving pet therapy.


The danger of watching this cat content suggests that these videos are a form of procrastination, with most being watched while at work or studying. However, if you consider that according to a 2016 report from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that at least 40% of people report their jobs are stressful, and 26% report they often feel burned out by their work. Controlled cat media engagement could potentially serve as a low-cost and easily distributed solution to improve worker and student’s mental wellbeing.


Preliminary evidence suggests that this type of media consumption can also increase cognitive, emotional, and positive behaviour towards the task at hand. Researchers have found viewing images of cute cats and cat memes, promotes attention to detail and behavioural carefulness.


A tip for the students out there, make sure to laugh as much as you can before an exam. Laughter increases the amount of oxygen that your brain receives, making it easier to think and solve issues; or... you can carry a cat into the exam, I’m sure that will keep you calm.

inventor cat meme apollo brush

Cat memes have great power and with that comes great responsibility. It is up to us to nurture our wellbeing and thus improve how we carry out our day to day lives. We can all be a bit happier to give us motivation to address our tasks ahead of us, whilst being careful to not use it as a scape goat to our problems.



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