Memes are a visual form of humour found widely on the social media, they are used as a medium to share and circulate the most facile of jokes as well as a means of contributing to the existing political discourse. This paper will attempt to unearth what lies beneath these simple images with some text on their top and bottom; what makes the form, content and style of a meme so unique that it has become an integral part of communication on social media. The three classic theories of humour viz superiority theory, incongruency theory and relief theory will be used to take on board this relatively new form of online humour. The aim is not to make a case for the better theory among the three, but to analyze why memes are found to be compatible with social media users and what ensures their perpetual circulation, what factors determine their reach, what are the reasons why certain memes go viral and some don’t. For elucidating on this topic, the paper will make use of certain cases that would make the analysis more nuanced. Finally, the paper would aim to address if memes are different from older forms of humour from the pre-digital area, if so, what makes them different and if not, how do we see them as a recreation of pre-existing forms of humour.
Chitra Adkar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India