Scientists Want to Catalog Dankest Coronavirus Memes

Scientists have asked the world to submit the coronavirus memes and jokes to learn more about how communication shifts during a global crisis.
Brad Bergan
Image formatted to fit. Source: Shepard Fairey in Hosier / WikiMedia

While healthcare workers around the world fight to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the rest of the global community does what it can to push back. While most are precautionary — like washing hands, practicing social distancing, and following official guidelines — our viral offensive kicks off with memes, according to The Next Web.


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Memes can pivot passive experience into reactionary empowerment. Source: @TerranQualls / Twitter

Dank memes to curb coronavirus woes

The coronavirus crisis has overshadowed nearly every other problem in the world, and — while China is beginning to push back against the spread of COVID-19 — Europe and the U.S. are starting to feel the full force of the pandemic.

This is why researchers at the University of Amsterdam and KU Leuven have started collecting memes, jokes, funny tweets, and supplemental coronavirus comedy.

The sheer volume of coronavirus memes flooding the internet every day is wild, but also a means through which the researchers can catalog coronavirus memes. To do this, they opened a portal that lists memes in English, Chinese, Russian, Chinese, Dutch, Polish, and Russian.

Memes against communication breakdown

It only takes two minutes to upload and cite meme, and to — if you want — detail the context that makes the joke. People who find themselves spamming coworkers and friends with memes, work-from-home jokes and gags are probably the ideal draftees for this low-brow labor of laughs.

Scientists are interested in this for various reasons. One of the researchers, Mark Boukes, said to TNW that crisis conditions like the COVID-19 pandemic help to uncover problems in society that most miss in the day-to-day grind of life as usual.

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"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," said Boukes, according to TNW.

Boukes and his colleagues hope to learn whether coronavirus memes and jokes lighten the mood, or if instead they serve as sharp political satire. Different cultures might also employ varying styles of humor, or frame different social figures as the butt of their jokes.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus reaches its pandemic fingers into the rest of the world, small moves like memes have started to see increased use as our collective means of expressing feelings about one thing. Whether on the frontlines or behind a computer, there is a way for everyone to contribute to what may become the most significant global event of the 21st century.

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