How memes are capturing what it’s like to live through a global pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way we live, work, and interact (sometimes daily!), there is one thing that has remained a constant in our lives: memes.
That’s right, those funny internet images that get shared across every social media platform and through personal text messages have been a source of levity and realness amid the pandemic for everyone who uses the internet.
But memes aren’t just a joke on the internet that is meant to make us laugh.
They also have a unique way of documenting a moment in time. There are timeless memes, like “Condescending Wonka”, “Grumpy Cat”, and “The Most Interesting Man”, but social media devotees may also remember iconic moments on the internet such as the countless remixes made of Rebecca Black’s flop tune “Friday” or the ongoing debate over #TheDress (was it black and blue or white and gold?).
And who could forget the meme made from President Trump signing an executive order, which was quickly edited by meme-makers and made infinitely funnier?
So what exactly is a meme?
Well, that’s part of the beauty of the meme: the definition is not easy to pin down.
According to Digital Trends, “the term is most often associated with an image or video that portrays a particular concept or idea and is spread through social platforms on the internet. That idea proliferates through social media, forums, instant messaging apps, and even news sites.”
A meme can be seen, understood, and also changed to make use for your own context. It could be broader, like something that’s going on in the news or pop culture, or insanely specific, like a joke about an episode of a favourite cult show.
It’s almost like an inside joke—but with everyone on the internet.
And what’s really cool about memes is the way they represent a moment in time.
There are memes that remind us of the 2016 election, or the Vancouver Riots in 2011 (remember that iconic kiss?), or that time Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch.
Memes even date back to WWII with the classic slogan, and perhaps one of the first-ever memes, “Keep Calm and Carry On”, which has been repurposed and reshared countless times over the years.
Memes have become so popular that back in 2016, their online popularity surpassed that of Jesus Christ.
Plus, memes tell the truth. Much like a joke from a stand up comedian, when you read a meme and laugh out loud, you tend to think to yourself, “It’s so true.” Only instead of turning to your friend to share a laugh, you’re tagging them in the comments section or sending it to them through a direct message.
And now, memes are documenting the pandemic.
As the entire world is on lockdown, stuck in limbo, living with the uncertainty of a global pandemic, memes have not only brought a sense of levity and relief, but a shared understanding that we are not alone in this.
Memes have been able to document the transition of this pandemic from chaos and confusion (recall the panic shopping and toilet paper hoarding during the early days of the crisis) to the “new” or “next” normal (no more Zoom meetings, please).
We pulled five of our favourite memes, which offer a chronology of the experience of living in lockdown and how everyone around the world is coping.
Here are our picks:
When no one knew what was going on, so hoarding toilet paper and bottled water seemed like the way to go:
Because people were *still* hoarding toilet paper and it started to feel more valuable than cash itself:
Because we could only go grocery shopping once a week, and even then, supplies were limited:
When Rachel from Friends perfectly described what six weeks in quarantine feels like:
And because work life is forever changed (maybe for the better if it means saving time on having to look presentable or do laundry):
Whether they are funny, heartwarming, or maybe a little too real, memes have a way of expressing how we are feeling in a given moment, and can truly serve as a “time capsule” to a historic moment in time. What are your favourite memes from the pandemic so far? Which ones are you sending to your friends? Tag us in them and let us know!