“It Gets Better”: Internet memes and the construction of collective identity

Noam Gal*, Limor Shifman, Zohar Kampf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

223 Scopus citations


In September 2010, a video titled “It Gets Better” was uploaded to YouTube, responding to suicides of gay teens who had suffered from homophobic bullying. Before long, thousands of Internet users added their own versions of the clip, creating a mass appeal to young people while simultaneously negotiating the norms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) collective identity. Conceptualizing this body of videos as an Internet meme, we examine the extent to which participants imitate or alter textual components presented in previous videos. A combined quantitative and qualitative analysis of 200 clips shows that in an arena ostensibly free of formal gatekeepers, participants tend to police themselves, toeing the line with conformist norms. We also identify domains of potential subversion, related not only to the content of the videos but mainly to the forms facilitated by digital media.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1698-1714
Number of pages17
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.


  • Collective identity
  • It Gets Better
  • memes
  • participation
  • representation


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