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Fat meme MEMEotive

Memes may encourage adolescents to be fat and lazy, warn researchers

Loughborough academics have presented a report to MPs to warn that social media memes are encouraging obesity, apathy and lethargy in children.

MEMEotive

Dr Ash Casey, Dr Martin Sykora, Dr Suzanne Elayan, Professor Tom Jackson and Professor Lorraine Cale carried out a study which looked at the negative messages young people were exposed to on a daily basis through images shared on sites such as Instagram and Twitter.

The researchers presented a report to the parliamentary Science and Technology select committee spelling out the “anti-health” themes of hugely popular shared memes*, which they said risked “normalising potential damaging behaviour”.

Examples included a picture of a fat squirrel with the text ‘me thinking about my next meal after I just ate’ underneath.

“It’s vice validation,” said project lead Dr Casey. “When you look at these things you find them funny and rationalise them, but the messages they give are harmful and normalise negative health behaviours.

“We had the idea to analyse the impact of memes about a year ago.

“We wanted to look at the what young people were accessing and what messages they were being exposed to.”

The project, MEMEotive - Analysing the Effects of Internet Memes on Young Teenagers’ Health and Health Behaviours – builds on the success of EMOTIVE, funded by the Defence Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL) following the London Riots, to detect and measure emotions on social media (Twitter).

MEMEotive aims to understand which memes become popular and how they influence and motivate the health and health behaviours of young people and teenagers.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 18/140

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