Memes are the COVID coping strategy we didn’t know we needed

New research suggests that funny memes could be helping people to cope and process the stress of COVID-19.

The research published by the American Psychological Association revealed that memes contributed to feelings of contentedness and calmness.

Viewing memes that relate to the pandemic reportedly increased confidence around managing COVID-19.

COVID-19 Memes
Image: Man of Many

Throughout December 2020 748 people were surveyed online to determine the impact of memes on anxiety, emotion and information processing surrounding the pandemic.

Different images were presented to the subjects with altering levels of ‘cuteness’ and variety of content.

The average participant was 41.8 years old, with ages ranging from 18 to 88. The majority of participants were white (72.2 per cent), female (54.7 per cent) and without a college degree (63.5 per cent).

Image: Campaign US

Hundreds of memes were sourced from popular websites and categorised based on content.

The presence of animals or humans, the age of creatures, and whether or not the captions related to COVID were all considerations when selecting the memes.

Researchers selected memes of equal humour and appeal with minimal alterations made to captions.

First, the researchers measured how frequently participants felt nervous or stressed within the past month.

Three memes with a similar theme (cuteness, caption and subject), or one of three controlled conditions (images with plain text and no image) were randomly assigned to each participant.

After viewing the provided media, the participants rated how cute and funny they deemed the meme or controlled text to be. Anxiety and positive emotion levels were also recorded.

In addition to this information, participants were asked to record how the media made them think about what they already knew about COVID-19, confidence in coping and their stress about the illness.

Image: Honeycombers

So, what were the results???

The study revealed that those who viewed memes compared to the other controlled media sources reported higher humour levels and positive emotion.

Subjects viewing memes with captions directly related to COVID-19 were even more likely to report lower stress levels when compared to non-COVID memes.

Lead author and professor Jessica Gall Myrick PHD, had this to say about the research findings:

“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,”

Researchers also revealed that people viewing COVID-related memes were more inclined to think deeply about content and more confident in their pandemic coping abilities.

Viewing cute memes with human or animal babies were less likely to consider the pandemic and how it affected their lives, regardless of the caption.

According to Myrick, these findings suggest that the content we view on social media about stressful events can help people process without becoming overwhelmed.