The way we love depends on a wide array of factors, not all of them internal. Indeed, the expectations we have of our partners are subject to outside influences, including the information we digest, in all its forms. One of the most basic of these forms is the meme. These individual units of cultural transmission pass from person to person and from one generation to the next.
The prevalence and importance of social media has made the sharing of internet memes a primary method of communicating ideas today. Short and punchy, memes are pervasive and often emotionally salient, making them prime candidates for influencers of human behavior. This observation led a team of researchers to explore the influence of romantic memes on relationship beliefs. Their research is published in Psychological Studies.
To test the relation between meme consumption and romantic beliefs, the authors primed participants with memes that were either “toxic” (promoting jealousy, reassurance seeking, unrealistic expectations and insecurity) or which underscored the value of gratitude, selflessness, unconditional love, tolerance, and freedom in relationships. Participants were then assessed for relationship satisfaction and romantic beliefs.
The results of the study indicate that brief exposure to ‘toxic’ memes can indeed have an effect on romantic beliefs. Those exposed to toxic beliefs as well as the control group were both more likely to agree with statements focused on jealousy and insecurity, attachment and dependence, and materialistic exchange.
None of the groups, however, differed as regarded relationship satisfaction. The authors offer the explanation that humans tend to use cognitive strategies to reassure themselves of their romantic decisions, although future research will need to further explore the relation between beliefs and satisfaction to confirm this.
Nonetheless, the findings are significant: even brief exposure to “toxic” memes was sufficient to alter romantic beliefs. Considering the barrage of memes that most people and especially youth encounter in their daily lives, their importance where relationships are concerned is difficult to overstate. Understanding why and how external factors influence the way we engage with and love others is an important step on the path to forming better, healthier relationships.
The study, “Romantic Memes and Beliefs: Influence on Relationship Satisfaction“, was authored by Jigisha Gala and Nishrin N. Ghadiyali.