Can memes be psychologically good for us during tough times?

Does mindlessly scrolling through memes when you wake up lift your mood a little?

New research from Sky Mobile has found that on average people spend two hours a day seeking out positive content, with nearly one in three going to memes for their daily positivity boost.

Though a completely non-serious thing, that can be exactly what someone dealing with heavy news, grief, or misfortune could need.

Positive psychology expert Vanessa King says there can be merit in seeing our misfortunes though a humorous lens.

She says: ‘Seeing the bright side, finding a silver lining or just dipping into content or sources that uplift our mood can certainly help us cope, increase our resilience and buffer us when there is unfortunate bad news around.

‘Even small positive mood boosts can make a difference.

‘And these don’t just feel good, science shows these can add up – for example, helping us be more open to others, more adaptable, better at creative problem solving.’

Would you believe being exposed to memes could have this effect?

A healthy does of jokey nihilism can be good for us too, for balance, but Vanessa says it’s important we turn overall to memes and gifs that have a positive message for the best impact on the mind – especially when times are hard.

She adds: ‘Finding sources of optimism is important for us all.

‘Not only can that boost our sense of hope and empathy, but it can make it more likely that we’ll do something kind for others.’

It’s also worth thinking about how we can boost the moods of our friends and family, as Sky Mobile’s research shows nearly a fifth of the UK will send social media posts to their loved ones with the aim of making them laugh.

Feeling you’re relating to something others are relating to as well – such as a friend – can also make a bad day that bit easier.

Vanessa recommends taking the time to notice how content online makes you feel. This way you can choose to do something about it – whether it’s unfollowing accounts or curating a feed that is full of mood-boosting and amusing images and quotes.

Beyond ourselves, she believes we should always keep an eye out for others online, as sharing negative memes in a jokey sense, making light of a bad situation, could signal something is wrong.

‘If people start sharing content that is not typical for them, then check in with them to see if they are OK, if you can help, or perhaps even sign post them (in a sensitive way) to sources of professional support,’ she says.

‘If people are sharing negative content, perhaps ask them to help you understand what’s behind sharing that for them, in case they do need someone to talk to.

‘We all have a responsibility to contribute to a constructive social media and online environment.’

Memes won’t change a rough patch, but they can bring a small amount of joy on a day-to-day basis.

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