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The Return of Deep-Fried Memes

The crispiest meme format has been resurrected.

Credit: Lizardrip / Reddit, saladbucket1 / Reddit

Out of all the memes the internet has created, the deep-fried meme has to be the most bizarre. Although deep-fried memes were popular in the mid-2010s, they’ve seen a recent resurgence.

n 2022, deep-fried memes have a distinctly darker and surreal tone, covering taboo content like mental health and addiction. Deep-frying is not only part of the humor but a way to get around censoring on social media. But what’s the story behind deep-fried memes and why have they been given a second chance?

If you’re unsure what a deep-fried meme is, it’s basically an already existing meme or image which has been comically over-processed. People create deep-fried memes by adjusting their saturation, brightness, contrast, colour balance, sharpness, and noise. Some memes also feature the fish-eye effect where the image appears to bulge out. By deep-frying a meme, it replicates the damage an image gets as a result of repeated sharing and screenshotting through social media. The meme’s content is almost irrelevant, as the ‘crispier’ the meme, the more cursed and therefore funny it is.

A history of the internet’s crispiest memes

Deep-fried memes started out on Tumblr in 2015 and became popular on Black Twitter. Deep-fried memes became so popular in the late 2010s that a dedicated subreddit, r/deepfriedmemes, was created. However, like many great subreddits, it was made private. New subreddits popped up in its place, like r/surrealdeepfriedmemes, keeping the supply of memes going.

Credit: r/deepfriedsurrealmemes / Reddit

Often these deep-fried memes were pre-existing memes that were edited to add a new humorous and cursed quality to them. Others were random images of meme characters like SpongeBob or Yoda which were edited until they were nearly unrecognizable. Memes made on Tumblr or Reddit were reposted to Twitter and Instagram many times over. Of course, this only made them crispier and even better.

Deep-fried memes began to fall out of favor for a few years, as the quality of the memes dropped in standards and people moved on to different meme formats. Memes rarely get a second chance at virality, but deep-fried memes were just too cursed to leave behind.

Deep-fried memes became a way to surpass censorship

Deep-fried memes have returned as social media platforms are strengthening their algorithms to further shadow-ban accounts that don’t meet the Terms of Service. Editing an image beyond recognition allows users to bypass censorship rules and create memes about taboo content.

Deep-fried memes often involve dark humor about addiction and mental illness, which would usually result in an account suspension. Deep-frying makes the image unreadable by content bots that filter out anything that would breach guidelines. This format has allowed people to vent through memes, which is a coping mechanism many people rely on.

Credit: UnHappyGingah / Reddit, yoboialeef / Reddit

Deep-fried content is a way of rebelling against the current social media restraints that often take down accounts that aren’t harming anyone. It allows people to vent or just make some really odd surreal memes that tap into niche internet humor. Unlike most memes, deep-fried memes have been given a second chance by the internet.

Written By

English student at Queen's University Belfast

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