Julia Maher ’23
Some of my favorite memories from quarantine are scrolling through social media and seeing hilarious memes that instantly lifted my spirits. Whether it was Bernie’s mittens during the presidential inauguration, Instagram accounts that showed which frog you were based on your name, or classic TikTok audios, I owe a lot more to memes than I give them credit. Having my college experience disrupted by the pandemic was devastating, and since I decided to stay home for the spring 2021 semester, I felt even more disconnected from Holy Cross. I definitely used memes and social media trends as coping mechanisms to add more humor to my life and provide a moment of respite for the ongoing emotional turmoil, political chaos, and public health crisis.
Some people, however, have an attitude of superiority and claim that memes are useless and a waste of time. This belief is typically held by older generations and even some people from younger generations who believe social media to be damaging in various ways. Despite these biases against memes, however, my positive experience with them is quite common among other people. In fact, a study published by the American Psychological Association revealed that only viewing three memes can help people deal with pandemic stress more effectively. Researchers surveyed 748 people in December of 2020 to “determine whether viewing memes would influence their positive emotions, anxiety, information processing and coping during COVID-19” (American Psychological Association, 2021).
The results of the research revealed that people who viewed more memes compared to other forms of media experienced higher levels of humor, a greater sense of positivity, and, as an indirect result, less pandemic stress. While it is still important that people do not consume too much media related to COVID-19, which could cause more stress, a tasteful amount of memes related to COVID-19 can help people feel better. It can help people process the overwhelming nature of the pandemic more easily.
With this evidence in mind, it is especially important, now more than ever, that we do not beat ourselves up for consuming more media, like memes. It is really easy to judge ourselves and other people for being too lazy or unproductive, but memes help us cope with the pandemic, and pandemic stress, by itself, already takes a toll on our productivity. Turning to memes and social media can be a form of self-care and a break from the current chaos, although excess consumption can be harmful. So, the next time you are scrolling through the Instagram explore page or TikTok, try not to feel guilty for enjoying memes. They are doing more good for your well being than is traditionally thought, and you deserve to have fun.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Delmas