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COVID-19 memes helped us cope with the pandemic, new study finds

How the COVID-19 memes helped us deal with life under quarantine and with face masks

People in face masks as a way to stop COVID-19.
People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk past a depiction of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in Philadelphia, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of California Santa Barbara recently studied the impact of memes on how we dealt with the pandemic.
Matt Rourke, Associated Press

It looks like all of those COVID-19 memes helped us cope with our lives in a pandemic, according to a new study.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently studied the impact of memes on how we dealt with the pandemic.

The study — which was published in the Psychology of Popular Media journal — found that those who viewed memes had “higher levels of humor” and positive feelings during the pandemic.

Per a news release, the study surveyed 748 people online in December 2020. The respondents “ranged from 18 to 88 years old, with an average age of 41.8, and were mostly white (72.2%), female (54.7%) and without a college degree (63.5%).”

Each of the respondents was shown some memes about the pandemic. They were asked to rate the memes on cuteness, hilarity and how emotional they made respondents feel.

They were also asked to explain what the memes made them think about COVID-19.

Those who looked at memes about the pandemic felt less stress than those who did not view the pandemic memes, according to the study’s news release,

“They also felt more capable of coping with the COVID-19 crisis and were better at processing information,” NPR wrote about 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.”

The researchers said the study indicates that memes can help us deal with overly stressful situations and cope with ongoing problems.

“We found that viewing just three memes can help people cope with the stress of living during a global pandemic,” said lead author Jessica Gall Myrick, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, per the news release.

She added, “This suggests that not all media are uniformly bad for mental health and people should stop and take stock of what type of media they are consuming. If we are all more conscious of how our behaviors, 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.”