Why Cat Memes Matter

In her book on games, titled Reality is Broken researcher and game designer Jane McGonigal goes on to explain that a game engages us because it helps provide clear goals, a strong sense of purpose and a powerful feedback loop that is immediate in its response. This seemingly simple formula activates the part of our brain that first made us step out of the relative safety of the cave when we had an imagination big enough to visualize all the horrors awaiting us out there and a self-awareness that was sufficient to make us realize we had no really powerful weapons to fight back with. No claws, teeth or overly developed muscles. 

But we had our brains. And they craved activation. This is also why Caturday, for all its apparent silliness and naysayers, has such a strong hold on us. At its basest form it provides a laugh. It allows us to connect with other people over a common understanding of a joke, in a safe interaction that breaks the ice and allows more meaningful contact and communication to next take place.

That’s the creation of a communication framework. And it’s global. 

But there’s more to it than that. A cleverly constructed meme is heavy with semiotics and semantically dense. The one I’ve chosen here, for instance, can be taken at face value given the analysis I am carrying out, but it is also self-deprecating. A signal that despite the expenditure of thought, time and energy I put into the subject and the post I am also poking fun at myself. The thinking is important. The person should not be. There is a deep humanity to our connection in this way that makes everything suddenly approachable when, perhaps, it might not otherwise have been. 

Google’s Head of the Agency Strategic Planning team, +abigail posner , explains this in more detail when she says that “The research showed us that far from distracting us from more serious things, these viral pictures, videos, and memes reconnect us to an essential part of ourselves.” (http://goo.gl/RxViM). 

Neuroscientists explain that synapses occur inside the brain when we’ve made a connection between various different things. The more random the components connected, the more synapses occur. Synapses are the basis of creativity. In other words, synapses firing equals creative joy.

So a cat meme (or even a cat pic) shared in a familiar environment can challenge us, make us think, cause us to laugh, empower us, help us connect, fire up our synapses and give us a fleeting moment of pure joy. Which is why we will do it again, and again and again, but in true human fashion, we also understand that the rules of the game require a challenge as well as a restriction. A framework though which we can both attempt to succeed and experience the thrill of participation. 

We do not post cat memes every day or even every hour of the day. We wait. Until Caturday. And we think. We look for clever ones or ones that really push the envelope. We share personal ones, because they are unique. We add to the visual internet. And in the process we learn, grow, expand, laugh, connect and interact. Globally. Netizens of a brand new culture. Creators of a world being born.

Check out some of the most popular cat memes (http://goo.gl/8t66j) and have an awesome #Caturday
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