Texas A&M Study Examines Religious Memes

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TEXAS A&M - A new study by Texas A&M communication researchers shows that Internet memes are a good indicator of how society views religion.

According to a recent statement from the university, a “meme” is defined as “an idea, belief or behavior that is spread through a given culture or social system via social or information sharing. As it turns out, the term “meme” has been around for a while. The university says that the first person to use the term was evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins back in 1976.

When Texas A&M Communication Professor Heidi Campbell and her team looked at a variety of memes, like “Advice God,” Buddy Christ,” and others, they found that the pictures, which are overlaid with text and circulated across social media platforms, break down complex ideas both positively and negatively. It’s said that a certain level of cultural and religious literacy is necessary to understand many of the often humorous , sarcastic, and “punny” posts.

Ruth Tsuria is a Ph.D. candidate in communication helping with the study.

“Memes work because they shove so much meaning into just a few words,” Tsuria explains. “It’s a sophisticated way to communicate and it’s not fixed. Memes are the nomads of the Internet; as they travel, they collect and develop new meanings. They exemplify how online users produce and consume culture together.”

To study the various memes, researchers looked at meme construction, use of humor, and audience reception.