Internet | November 4, 2021 5:00 am

Memes Lower Your Stress Levels, Says Science

According to a recent study, memes have helped Americans cope with stress during the pandemic


Good news! All the hours you’ve wasted mindlessly scrolling Instagram laughing at cute, silly and chaotic memes over the past 20 months have actually benefited your wellbeing.

A recent study published by the American Psychological Association has found that memes have helped Americans cope with stress during the pandemic, noting that respondents who looked at memes felt “calmer” and more “content.” Interestingly, those who viewed memes about the epidemic, in particular, were more confident in their ability to deal with the global health crisis.

The study surveyed 748 people who were shown popular memes from sites like Imgur and IMGflip that featured animals and humans, while a control group was shown other media. Some individuals in the meme-viewing group were given images with COVID-19-related captions instead of that same image’s original caption. Participants were then asked to rate how cute and funny they found the meme and to report their anxiety levels and any positive feelings, like calmness or cheerfulness. They were also asked questions related to the pandemic, i.e. how stressed they were about the virus, how confident they felt in their ability to cope with the pandemic and how the memes caused them to think about other information they knew about COVID-19. The study found those who viewed the memes reported more positive emotions.

Lead author Jessica Gall Myrick, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, told The Washington Post that people have been using memes as a gateway to talk about the pandemic and connect with people they’ve not been able to see in person.

“Because we’re isolated, when you see a meme about COVID and it reflects something about our experience, it’s really powerful because you don’t get to have as much interpersonal interaction with people. There’s something about it that helps us relate to other people.”

While the study’s sample size is small, and Myrick even admitted additional research is needed to more clearly understand how media use may lower stress levels, as The Washington Post notes, the new study is a “notable bright spot” amidst all of the constant bad news we’re used to hearing about the internet and social media. Doomscrolling is rotting our brains and Facebook is giving our children destructively low self-esteem, but at least the memes are keeping us sane.