Study Says Memes Help Us Cope With COVID Stress

I don’t just love Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave. I think the Netflix sketch comedy show is already a major pop culture institution. It’s hilarious, of course. But that’s now why. It’s that the series has also produced the best online memes of the last few years. It seems as though no matter the situation or topic, I Think You Should Leave  has the perfect image to make any story funny. I don’t even know how we communicated before the show existed. And I don’t want to think about how much more stressful the last 19 months would have been without those funny photos. I’m happy every time I see a guy in a hot dog costume. No matter how terrible the actual subject matter. Apparently I’m not the only one either. A new study says memes have helped Americans cope with the terrible stress of COVID-19.

The popular Jane Lynch meme from Glee20th Century/Nerdist

Researchers have published a paper in the American Psychological Association that makes the case for online silliness. Their findings (which we first heard about at The Washington Post) says that looking at memes help lower stress. Especially stress related to COVID-19.

The team interviewed 748 people online in December 2020 “to assess how viewing memes during this pandemic era may influence audiences’ stress and coping.” The researchers tested popular online memes of both humans and animals, young and old, looking for memes deemed cute. They then altered some of with text to make them COVID related. While others had nothing to do with the disease. What they discovered is that humorous or pleasant memes take some of the sting off dealing with a global pandemic. From the study:

“In terms of psychological responses, we found that meme viewing (vs. nonmeme content) was associated with stronger cuteness responses, higher levels of reported humor, more positive emotions, and lower levels of information processing. However, meme viewing was not associated with state anxiety, COVID-19-related stress, or COVID-19-related coping efficacy. Furthermore, because memes generated positive emotions that were in turn related to increased COVID-19 coping efficacy, a path analysis found that viewing memes, as compared with nonmeme content, indirectly increased COVID-19 coping efficacy.”

Not only do memes make you feel better than non-meme content, the right meme can make you feel better even when it reminds you of something bad. And you know who needs that since this pandemic isn’t over yet?

Keep the memes coming. I think they should stay.

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