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Even Internet Memes Are Dominated by White Men, Study Says

Even Internet Memes Are Dominated by White Men, Study Says

By Danica Lo

Don't take this personally, cats, but it turns out your biggest Internet nemeses aren't dogs—it's white men. What? No. This is serious, guys—calm down, hear me out.

A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem studied more than 1,000 people memes across 50 English-language meme "families"—the original image/meme plus its most popular variations. The result?

"The memetic sphere was described as dominated by young, white men," the study reports.

In terms of gender, male participants (59.4%) were represented twice as often as female participants (27.3%). Teens and young adults (38.7%) appeared most, while senior participants were the least represented (5.6%) in terms of age group. Caucasian participants (44.5%) were by far the most represented ethnic group, while Hispanic or Latino participants the least (0.2%).

 

And while The Washington Post points out that the results aren't exactly surprising—"Both Reddit and 4chan, the traditional petri dishes of meme culture, are overwhelmingly young and male."—it also makes the argument that a meme culture dominated by young, white men says a lot about dominant internet culture and how people derive information.

But even if these conclusions seem intuitive, they express a great deal not only about inclusion and diversity in online spaces but about power and information in them: who the gatekeepers are, who determines what’s cool, whose instincts and interests are considered most “fit,” in the Darwinian sense of the term. (Memetics, the study of memes, comes straight from evolutionary biology: Successful memes, like successful organisms, need to reproduce on blogs and forums and cheap T-shirts in order to survive.) The Internet, despite its more utopian goals, replicates biases and social structures that exist offline.

 

What are some of your favorite memes? Mine usually involve cute fluffy animals. But have you noticed that lots of people-memes do center around white men? Tell us what you've observed, in the comments below.

 

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Tags: Glamour, meme