Memes lower stress levels, increase positive emotions: study

Nov 7 2021, 11:00 pm

Memes are good for you. It’s science.

According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media last month, looking at memes helped people feel more calm, content, and cheerful.

Conducted in December 2020, the study found that when participants looked at memes about COVID-19, they reported lower pandemic-related stress and felt increasingly confident in their ability to deal with the virus.

“As COVID-19 spread around the globe, memes about the virus began to populate social media feeds,” researchers wrote.

“[They added] a dose of humor or sarcasm about the new realities of life during a pandemic, whereas others aimed to distract from COVID-19 altogether.”

Researchers surveyed 748 people to determine if looking at memes would influence their positive emotions, anxiety, information processing, and COVID-related stress and coping.

They also sought to assess how the subject of the meme—human or animal—its level of cuteness—young or old—and whether or not it was related to the pandemic would factor in.

Participants were shown a series of three memes from sites like Imgur and Imgflip, and then asked to rate how cute and funny they found the content.

They were also asked to report any positive emotions they felt, like cheerfulness and delight, their anxiety levels, and how confident they felt in their ability to deal with the pandemic.

The study included a control group who were shown plain text without images.

Researchers found that looking at memes generated higher levels of humour and positive emotions, which in turn related to better COVID-coping abilities.

As well, looking at memes with COVID-related captions resulted in lower levels of COVID-related stress.

“[The findings] demonstrate that memes have the potential to influence our psychological states and, in some cases, our stress levels and ability to cope with stress,” researchers wrote, adding that memes can offer “useful perspective, comfort, and validation.”

“This study provides initial evidence that memes may not be just frivolous fun; they are potentially helpful for coping with the stress of a global pandemic and connecting us psychologically while we remain physically apart.”

Zoe DemarcoZoe Demarco

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