During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jessica Gall Myrick was found watching fun pandemic memes on social media for some relaxation at the end of the day. Cute memes with pictures of puppies or babies seemed to work positively by moving away from negative emotions. He wondered: Do other people do this - and does it help?
Myrick, a professor of communications at Pennsylvania State University, decided to find out what was going on. Last December, as coronavirus infections were on the rise, she and two other researchers surveyed more than 700 people to see if using fun memes for their pandemic made it easier for them to overcome negative emotions.
Her study, published this week by the American Psychological Society, concluded that it did. Respondents reported that showing funny or cute memes helped reduce their stress levels and made them feel more confident about their ability to cope with the global health crisis.
The study is a small but remarkable bright spot in the midst of research that highlights the negative effects on doomscrolling mental health and the role played by Facebook and other platforms in its dissemination misinformation about the pandemic. It provides proof that reading memes can be a healthy way to help some people avoid feeling overwhelmed, provided the content is humorous and upbeat.
Further investigation is needed to confirm any therapeutic effects of refreshing memes. But the findings provide an insight into how positive social media feeds could offer some emotional benefits, Myrick said.
The study involved 748 people, showing them popular memes from sites like Imgur and IMGflip. They all featured animals and humans, some of them children.
Regarding the memes, some participants were given COVID-19 related captions, while others saw the same image as the original caption.
Subjects then rated how cute and funny they found the projected memes and reported their stress levels and situations such as relaxation and calm. They were also asked questions about the pandemic, including their anxiety about the virus and how much the images made them think of other information they knew about covid-19. Those who saw memes reported more positive emotions, the study found.
The researchers noted some of the limitations of the study, saying that additional research is needed to "understand how the use of memes, more broadly, can help reduce stress levels».
"Nevertheless," the researchers said, "our results showed that the display of memes evoked higher levels of positive emotions, which were positively related to the effectiveness of coping with COVID-19."
Myrick stressed that displaying memes does not replace seeking professional help for pandemic-related mental health problems, which experts say have increased in the midst of the crisis.
Source of information: washingtonpost.com