Zoom assembly after Zoom assembly, whereas attempting to feed, entertain and beg-to-sleep an toddler whose day care had closed, I wanted a break however couldn’t actually take one in April of 2020.
Enter memes. Between work, shifting the laundry and taking good care of my very own canines, I might sneak a peak at Instagram and chuckle at photographs of very excited pups, psyched that their people had been now residence all day, day-after-day.
I examine media processes and results, which is the psychology of how media messages can have an effect on you. Because the pandemic dragged on, I obtained increasingly concerned with how individuals had been utilizing social media – and memes that includes cute and humorous pics, particularly – as a approach to suppose and talk with others about life throughout a world pandemic.
Memes are little items of tradition that unfold from one particular person to the subsequent. They’ve existed since lengthy earlier than the delivery of the web, however digital know-how provides new dimensions, given the benefit of making, modifying and sharing memes on-line. Common web memes usually develop their very own names, similar to “Distracted Boyfriend,” “Squinting Girl” and “Handshakes.”
I partnered with colleagues Robin Nabi and Nicholas Eng to research the potential impact of mini meme breaks on individuals’s pandemic stress and feelings.
A meme experiment
Step one in our analysis was combing by way of lots of of actual memes we discovered within the wild on social media. We requested individuals to charge them for a way humorous and cute they had been, in addition to how genuine they appeared as fashionable web memes.
Utilizing that knowledge, we developed two swimming pools of memes utilizing the identical photographs: One set had captions about COVID-19 and one other set had captions unrelated to COVID-19.
me when i name it COVID-19 as a substitute of the rona pic.twitter.com/i46B1OPTXG
— Jenn7399 (@jenn7399) March 27, 2020
In our most important examine, we recruited practically 800 individuals to view a sequence of photographs utilizing on-line survey software program. One group noticed the COVID-19 memes, whereas a second group noticed the memes not about COVID-19. A 3rd group noticed image-free plain textual content that summarized the final concept of the memes, however was not in in the slightest degree humorous.
Then, irrespective of which set of content material our individuals noticed, everybody subsequent answered questions on how they felt in that second. We requested significantly about how they felt about COVID-19 and their skill to deal with pandemic stress.
Memes as temper boosters
Individuals who seen simply three memes rated themselves on a 1-7 scale as calmer, extra content material and extra amused in contrast with individuals who didn’t see the memes. As an illustration, individuals who noticed memes scored, on common, a 4.71 on our constructive feelings scale, in contrast with a mean of three.85 for individuals who didn’t see a meme. In brief, viewing just a few cute or humorous memes – no matter their subject – offered a fast enhance of constructive emotion for many individuals.
Furthermore, we discovered that individuals who rated themselves increased on the constructive emotion scale had been additionally extra more likely to really feel assured of their skill to deal with the stress related to dwelling by way of a world pandemic. There appears to be worth in reframing one thing that’s continuously tense and scary right into a extra approachable subject through the use of humor.
The subject of the memes mattered. Individuals who seen memes about COVID-19 rated themselves as much less pressured about life throughout a world pandemic. Those that noticed COVID-19-related memes additionally reported considering extra deeply in regards to the memes and their that means – what media psychologists name “info processing.” Extra info processing was associated to extra confidence of their skills to deal with pandemic-related stress. It’s doable that exerting extra effort interested by the subject might result in mentally rehearsing methods to deal with the associated stress, as a substitute of avoiding it fully.
This work provides to a rising physique of analysis demonstrating that folks use media to assist them take care of stress. For instance, my collaborator Robin Nabi has present in earlier work that utilizing media – whether or not tv, books or social media – is likely one of the prime methods for managing stress. In her surveys of school college students and breast most cancers sufferers, individuals who select media for stress administration reported it as an efficient approach to cope.
Collectively, these research recommend that media use is just not all the time the stress-inducing expertise or waste of time that it’s typically portrayed to be. As an alternative, it probably is determined by the particular kind of media message you’re consuming, the kind of particular person you’re and the scenario wherein you’re consuming it.
The pandemic, with its accompanying restrictions on journey, work and socializing, has been an uncommonly tense time. Taking a break to view and share bits of cute or humorous popular culture commentary within the type of COVID-19-related memes is usually a fast and straightforward approach to join with others and tackle pandemic stress head on by way of laughter.
Article by Jessica Myrick, Professor of Media Research, Penn State
This text is republished from The Dialog below a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.