Can Memes and Reels Keep Friendships Alive?
Top Image: Joy Lai / RICE File Photo

Can the conversation-less sharing of memes sustain friendships? Many of us have friends whom we haven’t seen in ages but frequently exchange social media clips with.

Maybe this is a reflection of our saturated schedules. Or maybe there’s more to it.

Sending reels takes some time, but meetups don’t take that much more time. So perhaps it isn’t just an issue about time availability and time management, but also how much headspace we are left with after a long day’s work.

High-speed Internet is rapidly evolving the definition of friendships, but this phenomenon also begs the question of whether globalisation is helping us become more connected, or inevitably phasing out physical meetups.

Given the time and energy left in our hands, we’ll take what we can get. As these sentiments below reveal, even if all we can muster are digital connections, they have the power to make us feel cherished and remembered.

“I think sending memes to each other is the new-age way of sustaining adult friendships. It’s much harder to constantly keep in touch given our busy lives, especially since trying to arrange for a meetup takes two to six business weeks. 

Sending memes is an easy and low-effort way of still keeping in contact, plus I think it’s a sweet gesture that shows that friends are thinking about me.”

— Jenny, 25

“One of my oldest friends and I are ‘reel friends’. We don’t chat much on a day-to-day basis, but we’ll send each other TikToks of ancient K-pop content and restaurant reviews. 

It’s only when we meet every few months that we catch each other up on everything we missed in our lives. I think we are just more used to spilling the tea in person. We never really had a texting relationship because we saw each other every day in school and were in the same hall in university. Texting feels kinda awkward for us. But the reels are a way to show that we’re still thinking about each other without forcing a whole conversation over text.”

— Kim, 29

Image: Helen Huang / RICE File Photo

“My friends and I send each other memes on TikTok, and we’ve been doing it every day since TikTok initiated a ‘Streak’ function, where you can count how many days in a row you and your friends have sent each other TikToks.

We joke that it’s our homework every night before we go to bed: to watch the shit our friends send us so that we have something to talk about the next time we see one another.”

— Michele, 22

“My friends and I are frequent users of Twitter/X. Instead of directly sending memes to me, they usually subtweet and mention my name whenever they come across something that reminds them of me. If I’m not on the app, I might miss some of these tweets—but when I do see them, it brings back memories of our times together. It’s a funny way of being reminded that they are thinking of me.”

— Xue Qi, 25

Image: Zachary Tang / RICE File Photo

“My friends know me as a horrible texter because I take ages to reply. Sometimes, I don’t at all. If it’s a serious topic or life update, it’s difficult for me to communicate when it’s not face-to-face in real life. 

So for all the times I’ve failed to reply texts, reels have bridged that gap slightly; it’s just easier and more fun to respond to relatable memes or visual content. Funnily enough, I believe the friends who constantly send me stupid or random reels are actually making a conscious effort to stay in my life with these subtle nudges.”

— Eudea, 30

“I have a friend who works in a church in the east while I live in the west. I work on weekdays, while his busy period is on the weekends. Some nights, my phone might buzz, almost until it drops off the table, because of Instagram DM notifications from him. He was probably doom-scrolling in bed and forwarding me reels that amused him. I initially felt annoyed, especially when the reels he shared had narratives I disagreed with.

However, I later realised this was his way of connecting with me. Perhaps I don’t resonate with some of his reels because we haven’t met for so long that we have grown into different people? Perhaps he was sending reels and narratives that he thought would vibe with my former ideals? So it’s partially my fault that I haven’t made the effort to meet him for that long.”

— Bran, 34

Image: Zachary Tang / RICE File Photo

“I’m not opposed to sharing memes with friends, of course, but I don’t think it makes for a strong friendship for me. I have friends who send me reels that reveal that they really only see me as a collection of certain traits (eg. I speak Spanish, so they just send me any reel they see that has Spanish without really considering if I’ll find it funny or enjoyable). I don’t dislike these people, I just don’t think we’re that close.

My favourite memes to share are those with very specific kinds of humour or niche interests. The specificity reflects that ‘I thought you, specifically, would enjoy this’. It’s a way to show that I’m trying to understand the person better.

I think a friendship cannot be built or sustained on memes alone. I have close friends with whom I share memes, but we also have actual conversations that go beyond ‘funny haha’. Memes are just a supplement to our relationship, in a way.”

— Elliot, 23

“Many of my friends live overseas, so their memes make me feel connected to them and show that they’re thinking of me despite the distance. I try to physically meet my friends who live in the same country every now and then.

Sending social media reels is very low effort to be honest, but it’s that we are just so busy. So I’m grateful for that sliver of real estate in a friend’s head. Thanks, capitalism.”

— Naomi, 32

If you haven’t already, follow RICE on InstagramTikTokFacebook, and Telegram. While you’re at it, subscribe to Takeaways, our weekly newsletter.
If you have a lead for a story, feedback on our work, or just want to say hi, you can email us at
Loading next article...