Kate Miltner recently received her Master's Degree from the London School of Economics for her 98-page dissertation on the appeal of LOLCats. That's right, Cheezfrends, we're the focus of some SRS ACADEMIC STUDIES!
She found that LOLCats consumers tend to fall into one of three groups. The first group, "Cheezfrenz," should sound more than a little familiar to some of us:
The first group, which Miltner labeled "Cheezfrenz," was made up of LOLCats diehards. "They are invested LOLCat lovers whose interest in LOLCats generally stems from their affinity for cats," she explains. They tended to be involved in I Can Haz Cheezburger (sic), the website of the LOLCat-loving community. Miltner found that for these women (and they were all women in her sample), the ICHC community appealed because it was, in the words of one "Cheezfrend" "a place to be safe and kind" for people who "want to be nice, want to be happy, want to give support, want to smile." Cheezfrenz recognized and bonded with each other (i.e. formed an in-group, in sociology-speak) by their correct use of LOLspeak (the grammar and spelling of LOLCats).
The second group, which Miltner calls "MemeGeeks," is predominately male and is more interested in creating LOLCats that refer to more obscure memes. Their community is centered more around Tumblr and Reddit. The third group is the "casual users" group. This group is split evenly between males and females. People in this group find and share LOLCats with their friends and family while bored at work.
Regardless of the group, however, Miltner says, "When it came to LOLCats, sharing and creating were often different means to the same end: making meaningful connections with others." In this way, she argues, fans both hardcore and casual enrich society and make people smarter.
We'd have to agree!
You can read Miltner's dissertation here (PDF).