<p>A young person looks at memes on his mobile phone</p>

A young person looks at memes on his mobile phone

Looking at memes may help people cope with pandemic stress, study suggests

Looking at Covid-19 related content helped participants process the news without getting overwhelmed

Saman Javed
Monday 18 October 2021 16:23
Comments
Leer en Español

Viewing funny memes may help people feel calmer and cope with the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study.

The research, published by the American Psychological Association, surveyed 748 people in December 2020 on how a variety of memes affected their emotions.

“As the pandemic kept dragging on, it became more and more interesting to me how people were using social media and memes in particular, as a way to think about the pandemic,” Jessica Gall Myrick, lead author of the study and a professor at Pennsylvania State University said.

After measuring how nervous or stressed each participant felt, researchers showed one group three randomly selected memes – some of which had captions related to Covid-19. A separate control group was shown plaint text and no images.

People from both groups were asked to rate what they had seen based on the humour and cuteness, and also the levels of anxiety and positive emotions such as calmness, relaxation and happiness they felt afterwards.

They were also asked to rate how much the media caused them to think about other information they knew about Covid-19, their confidence in their ability to cope with the pandemic and how stressed they feel about the virus.

“We found that viewing just three memes can help people cope with the stress of living during a global pandemic,” Myrick said.

Those who viewed memes reported higher levels of positive emotions than those who did not, and those who were shown memes with captions related to Covid-19 reported lower levels of stress.

Additionally, people who viewed Covid-19-related memes thought more deeply about the content they had seen and felt more confident in their ability to cope with the pandemic.

Myrick said the findings suggest that social media content about stressful public events can help people process the news without getting overwhelmed by it.

“While the World Health Organisation 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,” she said.

“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.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in