Memetic Noise And Mood

Memetic noise is affecting your mood, even if you don’t know it. The effect is strong and exponential.

Memetic Noise

We are surrounded by an ever more rapid memetic climate. Research (and public filings) show that users are spending hours upon hours a day using social media. That is: hours and hours a day opening the gates to the mind for memes to flood in.

Remember that your feed is never chronological. The primary metrics for social networks are user engagement and time spent, outside of the typical revenue goals. These are billion-dollar companies with some of the smartest people on the planet working at them. And they spend all day optimizing ways to keep you glued to the screen, engaging with the network, engaging with the content they choose to present to you.

Your feed is selected, algorithmically, to serve up the most viral memes for you. Everything is personalized; everything is customized. With thousands of hours of history to mine for patterns, you have given the networks everything they need to know exactly which types of content will keep you scrolling that feed.

These memes build up in your mind. The rapid delivery of customized memes, of increasing virality, builds up the memetic noise inside your head. And prolonged exposure raises the volume of this noise, over and over, until it becomes a ruinous din.

Memetic Noise And Mood

Memetic noise has a direct effect on your mood. Study after study has shown that using social networks, like Facebook, actually decreases your happiness. The effect is linear – the more time you spend exposing yourself to the network, the less satisfied you are with your own life.

Typically, this has been interpreted as a sort of hedonic treadmill effect. People curate their lives and only show the ‘best bits’ on social media. So logging in, you’re faced with the best of what everyone else is doing, and the minute-to-minute of your own life seems dull by comparison. So you feel worse about yourself.

But this misses that social networks are increasingly memetic and less personal. People share on social networks, but it’s not only about their own life. Increasingly, we see things like virtue signaling or straight up meme-sharing. When we speak of things “going viral”, they’re not your friend’s pics from their vacation in Ibiza. It’s news stories, sports highlights, memes of that nature.

What’s being missed is that increasing exposure to social networks is increasing the noise inside your head. These are huge meme pools, and opening your mind to them floods your head with bullshit. It may well be the case that the rapid rise in ADD diagnoses is directly related to internet exposure. Kids about to enter college have not only lived their entire lives with the internet, but with high-speed internet. Rapid loading of images and video brings lifetime memetic exposure unthinkable even to kids who grew up with dial-up.

The more noise, the less peace. The more noise, the less focus. The more noise, the worse your mood. Constant exposure to the highly-adapted meme pool makes the entire world seem like it’s moving at warp speed. And the information practically is, on a high-speed express lane straight into your thought patterns.

Pulling back from it all could help depression. Pulling back from it all could help you stop thinking so much.

It’s hard to be mindful and have clear thoughts when there’s a construction team working outside. The meme pool – in the form of social networks and the wider internet – are like a construction team in full gear. And while they’re making the noise, they’re working to get into you head.

Remove yourself, even for a brief period, and get away from the noise. Find peace and quiet. And watch your mood improve along with it.


Information and mood are more closely linked than you thought. There’s plenty of other ways information affects you. Interested? Join thousands: subscribe for email updates and follow me on Twitter, where I also post daily. I promise to keep it down.

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