Funny Memes Helped People Fight COVID-related Stress During Pandemic

A new study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of California Santa Barbara reveals that memes have helped individuals deal with life during the difficult time of the COVID-19 outbreak. The study was released this week in the ‘Psychology of Popular Media journal’. 

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As per a news release from the American Psychological Association (APA), which issued the journal, individuals who watched memes reported “higher levels of humour” and more pleasant moods. 

Memes are a pictorial representation of a situation used in a satirical tone, are made with funny images and comments on political and social events.

Memes are wildly enjoyed…

In almost every part of the world and every day, memes are made, shared, and enjoyed as part of ordinary social media activity.  

The report explained that American Psychological Association had questioned 748 people online in December and found that 72% of those who replied were white people, 54% were women, while 63% did not have a college degree. Their ages varied from 18 to 88. These researchers showed them a range of various memes, with each comprising its own set of photographs and text. Further, they asked the participants to score the contents based on attractiveness, comedy, emotional reactions, and how much the memes distracted them from COVID-19. 

The study’s finding reveals that those who watched funny memes during the stressful time of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced less stress than those who watched non-pandemic-related memes. According to the study, individuals were also considered more competent in dealing with the COVID-19 problem and were better at information processing. They were even much less anxious about the pandemic than those who didn’t see any COVID-19-related memes. 

Furthermore, the study discovered that people who saw memes with attractive newborns or baby animals have been less likely to worry about the outbreak or its consequences, irrespective of the nature of the caption. Additionally, according to the APA, researchers also discovered that individuals preferred animal-themed memes and found them cuter than human-themed memes. 

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The researchers further found that the memes about stressful events might help people cope with and comprehend unpleasant experiences.

While the World Health Organization recommended that people avoid too much COVID-related media for the benefit of their mental health, our research reveals that memes about COVID-19 could help people feel more confident in their ability to deal with the pandemic.

Jessica Gall Myrick, a lead author of the study and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, reported by the NPR website

Jessica went on to tell the website that this study shows that not all media is equally harmful to one’s psychological health and that individuals should pause to think about what kind of media they consume. “If we are all more conscious of how our behaviours, including time, spent scrolling, affect our emotional states, then we will better be able to use social media to help us when we need it and to take a break from it when we need that instead,” she added.  

Did you know?

The origin of the word “meme” stems from work by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Similar to the way a gene would transfer biological properties from one person to another, a meme conveys cultural information from one individual to another. While it’s common to refine the conceptualization of culture to an ethnic group, in actuality culture encompasses the shared beliefs, patterns, practices, values, behaviours, and customs of any group of people (e.g., Gen Z, gamers, Redditors). Considering this etymology, a meme can be used to provide valuable information that can help to foster understanding and communication whether you’re chatting with a friend or speaking with a therapist.

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