Now, scientists have told British lawmakers that Internet memes can contribute to Britain's obesity crisis and cause significant harm to teenagers.
"A significant number of people on Twitter share health-related Internet memes with both positive and negative messages," they wrote, noting that many contained "inappropriate material."
A picture of an overweight kid titled "Free Food? Count Me!" As an example of a meme that the researchers found dangerous, he was sent with the letter
The academics were also worried about a meme, which created a human-like body out of pictures of pizzas and hamburgers, with Frankfurter sausages for limbs and a smiley face potato.
The body was labeled "I" and placed next to images of three well-defined bodies for comparison.
"The vast majority of participants show little, if any, emotion when they share these memes," the researchers commented.  "I just washed this candy bar with soap," read the headline for another image in the letter, along with #cleaneating.
"Internet memes are generally considered entertaining, but they also represent a cultural practice that does not take into account the specific needs and rights of teenagers," the researchers warned.
"Unhealthy lifestyles cost the NHS billions every year," they added, suggesting that "the dangers of inaccurate / inappropriate health news" could be included in memes
call for meme research
The letter was sent to a committee that analyzes the impact of social media on the health of young people.
The authors suggested that teens should question the underlying themes in the memes instead of simply enjoying them.
"It is worrying that Internet meme content … uses a predominant sense of happiness regardless of the underlying tone generating image," she wrote.
"If Internet memes carry political, corporate or other agendas without priorities that are tailored to the needs of 13-16 year olds, then they have the potential to cause large-scale damage," they put
Also note that memes "have the potential to normalize unwanted behavior" and often "contain inappropriate material or ridicule others about race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, body shape, religion, diet".