This text initially appeared on Priceonomics.

To most individuals, memes are simply foolish footage overlaid with some textual content, designed to evoke a visceral response. However on a deeper stage, the meme is a vessel for transmitting the present beliefs, opinions, and ideas of our tradition.

However what are the memes truly about? We analyzed knowledge from Priceonomics buyer, a search engine that’s listed virtually each meme ever produced and made the textual content on the photographs searchable.

Utilizing this knowledge, we got down to analyze how memes have modified in these tumultuous occasions: Which themes, or folks, are being more and more meme-ified? Have they develop into extra politicized? To reply these questions, we poured via our database of memes, analyzing key phrases (the textual content that seems on the memes).

Memes might have a popularity for being “foolish” or “humorous”, however within the wake of the 2016 election, memes have gotten very political.


We took all of our key phrases, restricted to these which appeared at the very least 10,000 occasions in memes as of January 2017 and manually sorted via them, eradicating the boring stuff (prepositions, pronouns, and many others.). Then, we calculated the share enhance in utilization of every time period from January 2016 to January 2017.

Under, are the key phrases that elevated probably the most in utilization. Discover something?

The record is loaded with political terminology.

“MAGA” (a shortened model of President Trump’s marketing campaign slogan, “Make America Nice Once more”) ballooned from one use in January 2016 to greater than 12,000 makes use of in January 2017 — a 1.2 million p.c enhance. Amongst different excessive performers had been “libertarian,” “DonaldTrump,” “conservative,” “politics,” “liberal,” “republican,” and “president.”

Of the highest 25 phrases above, 14 — almost 60% — are political in nature. Id-related phrases (“LGBT,” “vegan,” “Christian,” “black,” “white”) additionally skilled massive will increase in utilization.

A have a look at phrases that went from zero mentions in January 2016 to over 1,000 mentions in January 2017 reveals a equally politicized record:

It ought to be talked about that just about all the phrases in our database elevated in utilization over the previous 12 months, as memes have simply develop into extra well-liked usually. However the phrases included above skilled a rise past the scope of what we contemplate to be regular.

That mentioned, some phrases have skilled a decline in latest months. Evaluating time period utilization from November 2016 to January 2017, we will see how seasonal memes are: the largest decreases had been November-specific phrases like “Black Friday” and “Thanksgiving.” Different notable decreases embrace “Fidel” and “Castro” (who died November 25th, 2016), “Jill Stein,” and “Standing Rock.”

Among the many most elevated phrases, “DonaldTrump,” “Trump,” and different variations of our 45th president reigned supreme. Stacked towards different political figures, this astronomical enhance is much more obvious.

In September of 2016 “Trump” and “Clinton” had been talked about in an equal variety of memes. By the November, there have been almost 20,000 extra “Trump” memes than “Clinton” memes — and for the reason that election — properly, Trump handily wins bragging rights as probably the most meme-ified politician.

Apparently, main as much as, and since, the election, we additionally noticed a spike in the usage of “Putin” in memes:

Trump’s rise appears to be indicative of a wider enhance usually memes about conservatives. “Republican” memes have elevated at a much more dramatic price than “Democrat” memes. In truth, even memes containing “Libertarian” outrank the Democrats — and “Communist” memes aren’t far behind.

Now, let’s dive just a little deeper into particular themes which have seen a dramatic enhance up to now 12 months.

Maybe as a byproduct of Trump, phrases regarding the failures of conventional media — “pretend information,” “conspiracy,” “media verify,” and “bias” — have seen a spike in utilization:

As Trump has threatened and alienated a rising inhabitants of subgroups, phrases associated to private politics have additionally elevated.

On the intersection of racism and politics, we’ve seen phrases like “racism” (6,000% enhance), “Nazi” (three,200% enhance), and “white supremacy” (11,000%) explode in utilization.

An identical development could be seen with sexual identities — particularly, ”LGBTQ.”

There has additionally been a spike within the utilization of assorted religion-related phrases. Within the wake of Trump’s Muslim ban discuss all through the election, the time period “Muslim” noticed a utilization enhance of almost 9,000% over the course of 2016.

After all, the growing divisiveness of politics in 2016 additionally induced a bump in “resistance” memes — that’s, memes that both champion of mock political backlash.

You’ll be able to see a small bump in “march” in the course of the month of March — however the huge enhance round December 2016 is greater than seemingly because of the Ladies’s March, and different extremely publicized protests across the nation. We’ve a seen comparable, albeit much less dramatic, rise in phrases like “protest,” “motion,” and “resistance” over the course of 2016 — principally, post-election.


Most individuals consider memes as little greater than humorous footage of animals, or age-old inside jokes on the Web. However in 2016, we noticed a substantial enhance within the politicization of memes. Shifting ahead, for higher or worse, memes might play an growing function in the best way politics are mentioned on-line.

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