Most of us are unfortunately all too aware of the coronavirus pandemic that’s spreading across the world. China seems to be on the mend, although the situation is still dire, but Europe is grinding to a halt and the US is starting to feel its share.
While brave healthcare workers are fighting the spread on the frontlines, you can do your part by following official instructions, washing your hands, practicing social distancing, and… sharing memes.
Yes, you read that right, sharing memes, for the advancement of science! Researchers at the University of Amsterdam and KU Leuven have begun a collection of memes, jokes, funny tweets, and other humorous coronavirus content — and they’re asking for your help.
There’s an insane amount of coronavirus memes being created and spread every day (humans have a weird way of coping with imminent danger), so the researchers have opened up a portal for the public to share and catalog coronavirus memes — currently available in English, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Polish and Russian.
The process takes about two minutes as you simply upload the meme, fill in where you saw it, and if you’re up for it, give it a bit of context to explain the joke. And to be honest, if you’re one of the useless people that are just stuck at home spamming coworkers and friends with memes and lame working-from-home jokes (like me), it’s the least you can do for society.
But why are scientists interested in this? Mark Boukes, one of the researchers behind the study told TNW that crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic help to extenuate societal processes that normally may be less obvious.
“Especially now, we can witness how people tend to communicate about public issues. In particular, the role of humor in stressful times as this is fascinating: How can people make an issue so heavy, still light enough to cope with it. Also, we hope to make something interesting and relevant out of this troublesome period,” says Boukes.
Boukes and his colleagues are interested to see whether coronavirus jokes and memes are mostly to lighten the mood, or if they’re also being employed for biting political satire. And then there’s the question of whether people from different cultures employ different styles of humor and whether they have different targets in their coronavirus memes.