The internet has given us many things, one of those things are the little pictures you find on your Facebook timeline: Memes. You know, the pictures with text written on top of them that either make you laugh or say “wow.”

Memes are an important by-product of the internet in regards to how we relate to one another. The effect that memes have had on our culture is overlooked and underestimated. Memes do more than provide temporary nostalgia and a quick laugh. With the help of the internet, Meme’s have helped us rethink the way we interact and understand one another.

Non-verbal communication is essential, as we’ve been told, a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s tough to accurately communicate to the perplexed look on your face, or the heavy-breathed sigh you just let out using only words. A meme is able to capture an entire moment/story with a picture and two lines.

Seeing that someone has made meme that you can relate to, and seeing other people like and share a meme on social media, non-verbally communicates that these things happen to others as well.

You can look at a meme, like the ones above, and say “Oh, I’m not the only person that has that problem/experience!” And suddenly “The Big Bad World” with all its “evil inhabitants” are, for a moment, not so evil. In that slight moment they too are human, and you realize that despite our differences in gender, race, social-economic status; many of us experience the same minor inconveniences and situations in our everyday lives.

When looking at a meme you are not empathizing with a specific person, but with human-beings in general. Thanks to the vast variety of memes displaying the situations many humans find themselves in, the paranoia and mystery of “other people” tones down. We are realizing that these “other people” are actually just like us. And our fears of “The Big Bad World,” are being reduced, simply because we are better able to understand and relate to each other.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

Marie Curie

The lack of understanding that we’ve had towards people stems from mystery. We don’t know what other people do or what they’re like, and that breeds anxiety and suspicion. When someone shares or likes a meme, it gives you a glimpse into that persons life that you may have not had before. It humanizes them, and the mystery and paranoia you had towards a person, or group of people begins to be neutralized.

Despite how minor it is, it is important that these baby-steps towards understanding other people happen. We fear what we don’t understand, and it is important that we find grounds to begin understanding one another, even if it’s through memes.

It is quite clear that between love and understanding there is a very close link…He who loves understands, and he who understands loves. One who feels understood feels loved, and one who feels loved feels sure of being understood.

Paul Tournier

Of course, not all memes are bringing us closer together. Some memes are just flat-out hilarious. But the next time you see a meme appreciate it for more than it’s face value. With the help of the Philosoraptor, Success kid, and Bad Luck Brian, we are learning that we are more alike than we are different.

Toast to the guy who never stops posting memes on your Facebook timeline, he gets it.