Pioneering The Positivity Movement: The woman making wholesome memes

Kathryn Wheeler
By Kathryn Wheeler,
updated on Nov 10, 2017

Pioneering The Positivity Movement: The woman making wholesome memes

Whether it’s websites dedicated to ‘good news’, viral motivational TedTalks, or giant inflatable unicorns, positivity and escapism is the ‘thing’ of 2017. And wholesome memes are bang on trend

Elle McGann

Elle McGann

2017 has not, by any account, been an entirely smooth ride. And yet, more than ever before, digital content with a softer, more wholesome touch, is flourishing on our social media feeds.

Internet culture is notoriously difficult to trace. But in early 2017 there was a dramatic spike in the number of Google searches for ‘wholesome memes', internet content that uses classic meme formats to convey positive or supportive messages.

Social media accounts that exclusively share 'wholesome memes' now attract loyal followers in their millions. So what's spurring this trend? And how can ‘wholesomeness’ help someone with their mental wellbeing?

To find out more, Happiful spoke to Elle McGann, the woman behind one of the biggest Facebook pages dedicated to sharing snippets of wholesome internet culture.

Hi Elle! How did the Wholesome Memes Facebook page begin?

I noticed an increase in 'happy' memes or memes with a positive message. So I started the page as somewhere to share them all. Initially my posting was infrequent, however once people begun to respond, I begun posting once an hour, plus occasional personal posts, as I loved talking with the community!

How do you decide what’s 'wholesome'?

This is a frequently a topic of controversy in the comment section! To me, something is wholesome if it’s uplifting, positive, happy, even self-critical — anything that makes you smile, laugh, reflect on your actions, or grow as a person.

wholesome memes

You currently have just over 1 million followers. Do you feel any pressure from managing such a large community?
I do, because I know the positive messages that comes from the posts means so much to people. I don’t want to let anyone down.
How much time do you dedicate to running the page?

At least two or three hours a day, every day! I love running the page, so I never mind squeezing work on the page into my day. Sometimes I make memes based on a situation that happened to me. Some of the memes are submitted by people from the community, and I spend hours scouring the internet and social media to find new memes that would fit in well with Wholesome Memes, too!

Why do you think there’s such an interest in wholesomeness in 2017?

I like to think of wholesome memes and ‘wholesomeness’ as a small part of the larger positivity movement. We’re constantly bombarded with negativity, but watching something funny on YouTube, or scrolling through Wholesome Memes on Facebook is an escape which can ultimately make you feel happier and more fulfilled.

'wholesome memes' are perhaps the opposite of 'nihilist memes' in the way that they deal with mental health. Why do you think someone would prefer one over the other?

I don’t see them as direct opposites so much, because they both help people with their mental health. I know people who use both to deal with the problems they’re having. Nihilist memes tells people that ultimately ‘nothing matters’, which does help some people. But wholesome memes reminds people that regardless of whether everything or nothing matters, you should still try to think, do, and be good.

wholesome memes

On the other hand, many wholesome meme converts tell me they felt nihilist memes made them apathetic to their problems, and didn’t help them at all.

A lot of your posts are about healthy, supportive relationships and friendships; are those important to you in your everyday life?

When I started Wholesome Memes I was lacking both in my life, but I still made content about them because I know how important they are.

I was bullied throughout highschool, and in college I just never properly clicked with anyone. Things are getting better for me though; I never really had a circle of friends, more like a triangle or square, but I’m getting closer to a pentagon. They’re definitely very important to me.

Can you tell us about your own experiences with mental health?

It's been pretty terrible. I’ve tried to get professional help before, but have found it hard. I think it’s hard for the doctors I see at my local GP to empathise with someone struggling mentally. I tend to suffer in silence, or talk to people on my Instagram, or on Wholesome Memes if things get really bad. But I am generally happier and much less anxious than I was five years ago.

Do you find that focusing on positivity helps with your mental health?

Definitely! It’s nice to be able to relax and go to Wholesome Memes and talk to people about positive things, or to make a meme with a positive message, or to find something funny, cute, or positive to share.

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