Regular weekend night-outs, weekly sleepovers, spontaneous out-of-town trips, hour-long video calls—these scenarios are what I expected my adult friendships would look like. But after being thrown to the real world, these have all been pretty rare occurrences.
Villains come in the form of schedules not matching, having insufficient budget, or just slowly evolving into a human being struggling to maintain high-intensity interactions. Many of us started feeling it during the pandemic’s peak, and have struggled with getting out of this strange slump since.
So, many of us found other ways to keep in touch—like sending memes. It’s not sharing five-paragraph stories of how our day went, nor scheduling the next big hangout with the whole group chat’s participation. But it’s a testament to how we remember a friend (and decide to let them know). Is it a hyperspecific TikTok they can relate to? Is it an edited photo that mirrors one of your inside jokes? Is it a funny Reel that can potentially have water come out of their nose mid-lunch?
And if you feel guilty (or your self-critique voice would claim that sending memes comes off as a lazy move to maintain friendships), you have someone credible to vouch for you. In a video uploaded by University of Oxford’s official TikTok account, Oxford psychologist Dr. Mary Kempnich said that sending a meme or a funny picture actually is a good way to stay connected.
@uni.of.oxford Yes, you should send memes to your friends! Oxford University psychologist Dr @drmary reveals the psychological benefits of sending funny pictures and videos to your family and friends. #meme #memestiktok #friendshipgoals #friendship #friendshippsychology #psychologyfacts #psychology #psychologytricks #OxfordUni #OxfordUniversity ♬ Piano soft and bright cute for CM and images – RYOpianoforte
“You’re not expecting them to reply. You’re not asking them anything that they need to sort of elaborate on and it doesn’t really matter how your day is going,” Dr. Kempnich said. “You’re basically just showing each other that you exist, you care, and you wanna make each other laugh.”
If you’re the receiver of these virtual goldmines, Dr. Kempnich urges you to “leave a little like or a heart.”
While sending memes is quicker than having a very detailed conversation, it’s good to know that it still counts as a genuine way to maintain friendships. Sometimes, we just run out of social battery, are physically exhausted, or too preoccupied, but nonetheless still want to express love for friends.
In our timelines, we also notice posts that speak for those who are apologetic about interacting with friends occasionally despite being seen online. Why does it seem to be more challenging to engage with people than just mindlessly scrolling through our feed?
In a more recent TikTok, the psychologist discussed this shared experience—and highlighted that it’s not as uncommon as we think.
“Responding to a message of a friend you care about actually takes some time and requires you to put in some effort especially if they’ve asked you questions that are not very easily answered in a minute or two,” Dr. Kempnich said. Meanwhile, “scrolling passively” comes off as a more relaxing and distracting activity, especially if you’ve been drained the whole day.
If you find yourself doing that again, Dr. Kempnich has the same advice: “Leave a little comment or a little like” to emphasize your presence for your friend—you’re just not ready to properly respond yet.
Meme template from imgflip