As the pandemic started, Jessica Gall Myrick noticed that the memes on her social media feeds were slowly shifting to follow the public health disaster. “There were more and more memes about COVID-19…and I was talking to my colleagues and they noticed similar trends,” she says.

Myrick, a professor of communications at Pennsylvania State University, started thinking about how memes about this stressful time period were percolating through the internet and our collective consciousness. She and her colleagues set up an experiment to study whether these pandemic memes helped us cope with stress during quarantine—and their results were published in the American Psychology Association journal Psychology of Popular Media this week.

Sonya Dal Cin, an associate professor of communication and media at University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study, says that it’s not surprising people would pay more attention and react more to the COVID content. “We’re all living it right now,” she says. “And if you compare the textual content of the meme and non-meme, the COVID-related stuff is probably more relevant to more of the people that they surveyed.”

However, she notes that these results capture a pattern of affects across a group of people. “On average, people who saw these COVID-oriented memes had higher feelings of coping efficacy around COVID—that doesn’t mean that everybody did,” she says. “Some people probably did more than others.”

Read the full article at Popular Science.