Pandemic Mee-Mmss

Meme+created+by+reporter+Brigham+Larson

Meme created by reporter Brigham Larson

Brigham Larson, Reporter

(NOTE: Title had to be changed to be allowed on a Chromebook. The word “meme” in the title caused a problem. All memes in this article were created by the author and based on popular topics for memes related to the pandemic)

In 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing the vast majority of citizens to self-isolate, Internet usage among US citizens skyrocketed, according to Forbes. With a lack of social interaction and the high amount of uncertainty, many people turned to an unlikely coping mechanism: memes.
Teens who were forced into online learning found themselves driving to popular meme pages in droves. Subreddits like r/memes and r/dankmemes were filled with edited images about the awkwardness of showing up to online classes, darkly comedic quips about losing one’s sense of smell and taste, and even highly emotional memes with legitimate insight on teens’ declining mental health in the face of this crisis. Facebook pages like Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens brought Gen Z together to share in the misery with a sense of humor.

Some may describe these memes and jokes as tasteless, tone-deaf, or anxiety-stoking. Wired published an article entitled “Is It OK to Make Coronavirus Memes and Jokes?” which describes how some could be viewed as racially charged or unfeeling towards those who may have lost friends or family members. While published before masking and self-isolation became the norm, the article still poses relevant questions and discusses controversy behind figures like Prince Middleton and PewDiePie for supposedly insensitive Coronavirus jokes, stating “A global outbreak that has killed thousands of people doesn’t seem like a likely source of humor, but the internet can’t stop cracking jokes about coronavirus.”

However, research suggests that the massive amount of Covid memes was highly beneficial to those in quarantine. The American Psychological Association published a study entitled “Consuming memes during the COVID pandemic: Effects of memes and meme type on COVID-related stress and coping efficacy,” which reveals that “Those who viewed memes that specifically referenced the pandemic felt less stress than those who viewed non-pandemic-related memes. They also felt more capable of coping with the COVID-19 crisis and were better at processing information, according to the study. And they were also less likely to be stressed about the pandemic than those who didn’t view memes related to COVID-19 at all, researchers concluded.”

Jessica Gail Myrick, a communications professor at Pennsylvania State University, conducted the study with two other researchers of more than 700 people. She elaborated on the inspiration and results of the study in an interview with Washington Post.

“People are using memes as a way to cope and talk about life during the pandemic, and to make social commentary,” she said. “Because we’re isolated, when you see a meme about covid and it reflects something about our experience, it’s really powerful because you don’t get to have as much interpersonal interaction with people. There’s something about it that helps us relate to other people.”

The memes produced about the pandemic take many forms and are viewed from a number of different perspectives. Among the most popular at the beginning were memes depicting people with Coronavirus deciding to travel for seemingly no reason, using images from The Office, Grand Tour, and The Lord of the Rings. Others use edited pictures of technology YouTuber Linus Tech Tips to describe the feeling of showing up early to online classes.

Others utilize relatability in a different way. While social commentary has been a staple of memes ever since the medium’s beginning as humorous Impact image edits, the more flexible meme formats introduced in recent years have allowed for meme creators to say the things that every citizen has been thinking about, but haven’t quite had the platform to state.

While these memes may not be enough to convince the government to remove Covid restrictions entirely, introduce more measures, or whatever viewpoint these memes are advocating, they provide people with a sense of comfort knowing that there are others expressing the things they feel strongly about. They express every viewpoint, whether it be that of conservatives, liberals, essential and non-essential workers, unemployed people or high school students.

While the hardships of the pandemic are clearly far from over, humanity has still survived yet another uncertain crisis by laughing at it, a practice extending as far back as humanity can remember. Covid memes help citizens forget their troubles much in the same way that Marx Brothers films did during the Great Depression. As strange as it may seem, contributions by strangers on the Internet have definitely helped the population survive through a historic period of fear and uncertainty.