Under Pressure: Memes for Stress Relief?

While Jade Perraud, 24, of Montreal, self-isolated in her residence together with her golden retriever throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she handed the time by sharing COVID-related memes on TikTok together with her pals.

 

“I’ve been living alone this entire time, so I spent more time on my phone and more time connecting with others, and that included memes,” Perraud says.

 

Perraud and her pals aren’t the ones. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many millennials and Generation Z members like Perraud, who’s on the cusp between these two teams, fashioned online communities to share COVID-19 memes. (According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z consists of folks born between 1997 and 2012, and millennials embody folks born between 1981 and 1996).

 

One instance is the favored Facebook group Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens, which was fashioned by school college students taking online programs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person lessons weren’t a possibility.

 

Why COVID-19 Memes Helped People Cope During the Height of the Pandemic

COVID-19 meme sharing at the very least gave folks one thing to do throughout the pandemic when workplaces, eating places, bars, gyms, and different public locations had shut their doorways to the general public. But new analysis means that memes might have performed a task in preserving folks sane, too. A study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media in 2021 means that COVID-19 memes, to a sure extent, might have supported private efforts to deal with COVID-19-related stress.

 

The research included 748 folks. Researchers discovered that individuals who checked out memes with COVID-related captions had stronger data processing and decreased ranges of COVID-related stress than those that checked out meme captions that had been unrelated to COVID-19. And among the many research individuals, stronger data processing was tied to an elevated capability to manage.

 

Viewing memes was additionally related to greater ranges of self-reported humor and elevated constructive emotions in contrast with the non-meme content material on social media.

 

What’s Therapeutic About Memes?

What is it about memes that help folks really feel higher all through the pandemic? “I believe it is only a method for us to be inventive and to attach with different folks by sharing our expertise, after which understanding we’re not alone by seeing ‘Okay, other people are struggling with this during the pandemic,” says Jessica Myrick, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and an associate professor of communications at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania.

 

The popularity of COVID-19 memes has also likely helped normalize the mental health struggles many have faced throughout the pandemic. Perraud says she’s in a position to be extra open about her psychological well-being online than she is at her job in professional companies at a significant Canadian college.

 

“I can openly say ‘I’m depressed all the time,’ but then I forget sometimes when I talk to people in my life that not everyone jokes about that or is depressed,” says Peraud.

 

The psychological well-being effect of COVID-19 memes may clarify partially why online meme-sharing boards are so common, in line with Dr. Myrick. When folks discover one thing that makes them really feel good, they are usually extra motivated to hunt out a group of individuals with identical curiosity.

 

“One of the main purposes of experiencing positive emotions is to build social capital, to motivate us to want to connect to other people and to be in groups of people, so positive emotions are really important for building a community. That’s how we connect with each other,” says Myrick.

 

Beyond the Pandemic: Memes and Mental Health Conditions

Using memes to deal with tough feelings like stress — and even psychological well-being situations like depression and anxiety — shouldn’t be distinctive to the pandemic. For instance, Perraud, who lives with melancholy, has discovered memes assist her to take care of the stress of being an undergraduate pupil.

 

One common supply of such memes is the account @mytherapistsays on Instagram, which has almost seven million followers. In the remark part of every submit, customers interact with memes about needing therapy, having frequent emotional breakdowns, or psychological well-being points like seasonal depression.

 

Research suggests sure sorts of memes like these could also be useful for those with psychological well-being situations like melancholy or anxiousness. A study published in January 2020 in Scientific Reports discovered that, in contrast with folks without melancholy, those that have melancholy usually tend to have a constructive response to negatively oriented memes or memes with a humorous tackle an unfavorable state of affairs or expertise.

 

According to the researchers, this was possible resulting from perceived peer help from others with comparable signs.

 

“Anxious and depressed people often turn to social media as a means of social communication and adaptation to an uncertain situation, a notion which has been evidenced in the context of the current pandemic,” says Umair Akram, Ph.D., the corresponding writer of the research and a lecturer in psychology at Sheffield Hallam University within the United Kingdom.

 

More Than Entertainment: Memes Can Help People With Mental Health Issues Come Forward

While the principal function of memes is normally to make folks chuckle, memes can even assist folks to be extra open with others around them about the truth that they could be scuffling with their psychological well-being.

 

Brooke Knisley, a 31-year-old comedy author in New York City who lives with a traumatic brain injury, finds that memes — whether or not centered on COVID-19 or one other critical problem like psychological well-being — might be good icebreakers.

 

“It’s a good coping mechanism, and making jokes and memes about these weighty topics are a means of opening up conversations,” Knisley says.

 

Sharing a meme might be simpler for some folks than telling members of the family or pals outright about psychological well-being struggles, says Natalie Pennington, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communication research at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

 

“Increasingly, memes and technology have facilitated more open discussion, so it might be easier for someone to share a joke to sort of say, ‘Hey, this is something that affects me, too,’” says Dr. Pennington.

 

Is There a Downside to Memes?

Memes, whereas useful, aren’t the one reply, Pennington says. For occasion, memes should not be a Band-Aid resolution for an absence of inexpensive psychological well-being care.

 

“You also have lots of people who can’t get access to mental health treatment, can’t go to therapy, don’t have people to talk to offline,” says Pennington. “[While] memes are great to connect community, [they] don’t help solve someone’s problem in and of themselves.”

 

And memes have drawbacks. Some folks have turned to memes to unfold misinformation on the web, particularly associated with the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Myrick cautions folks to be actively conscious when participating with COVID-19 memes and consider whether or not any well-being data they include is correct. For instance, memes that counsel vaccines trigger autism are false and dangerous to the autistic group.

 

“I think it’s really important that we think about why we’re sharing content, why we’re looking at content, why we’re drawn to content, and be aware of our emotional states around different content, so we make sure we don’t share things perhaps that aren’t necessarily true,” says Myrick.

 

While Knisley is a fan and creator of memes, she additionally has considerations about memes containing inaccurate data and even triggering folks with psychological well-being considerations. Knisley emphasizes that folks have private duty for the memes they create and share.

 

“I think people should take a moment to assess before they put a joke out into the world, what is the overall charm of this [joke],” Knisley says.

 

Beyond Memes: What’s Next if You Need Help?

While memes might assist folks discover temporary aid from stress and different unfavorable feelings, they’re not an alternative for remedy or different types of psychological well-being help.

If you’re scuffling with melancholy, anxiousness, or different psychological well-being points, it’s clever to hunt skilled assist. Your choices can embody:

 

  • Sliding-scale remedy Some psychological well-being professionals supply sliding-scale charges for remedy companies based mostly on an individual’s earnings, which can assist make remedy extra accessible and inexpensive.

 

  • Online remedy Virtual remedy apps akin to Talkspace and BetterHelp typically value much less and contain extra versatile scheduling choices than conventional, in-person remedies.