Penn State Professor Hosts ‘Research Unplugged’ Conference on Use of Internet Memes and the Influence of the Pandemic | State College News

In the Community Hall of the Schlow Center area library on Thursday, Penn State professor of media studies Jessica Myrick hosted a talk on internet culture and memes, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.

As a media expert “fascinated” by meme culture, Myrick kicked off the conference by defining what a meme is, quoting renowned meme creator Saint Hoax, who defines it as “media that is repurposed to deliver a culture, social or political”. expression, primarily through humor,” according to the New York Times.

Myrick went on to describe studies she has been involved in that have investigated the effects of memes, noting that her partner sparked the idea after Myrick continued to question the internet’s fascination with cats in 2015.

She published an article that year titled “Emotion Regulation, Procrastination, and Online Cat Video Viewing: Who’s Watching Cats on the Internet, Why, and to What Effect?”

Later, in the face of the growing trend of coronavirus-related memes over the past two years, Myrick noted that more social media phenomena have occurred regarding coronavirus memes.

She suggested that people coped with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic with memes, and other memes have shown that the continued mention of these stressors is also mentally taxing.

Jessica Gall Myrick, professor of media studies at Penn State, discusses memes during the Research Unplugged event at the Schlow Center Region Library at State College, Pennsylvania on Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Myrick featured examples of popular memes like “success kid”, which she described as a “very happy meme pattern”, “distracted boyfriend”, “disaster girl”, and “epic handshake”.

She said memes had “10x more reach in terms of marketing graphics and 60% more organic engagement.” Myrick also cited a 2018 Forbes study that found the average millennial watches 20 to 30 memes every day — a fact that Audience member Jody Whipple was interested in.

Myrick also noted that companies’ participation in social media trends, such as memes, is an indicator of social effect.

“If you see a company starting to do something, that’s a sign that it’s actually affecting people,” she said. “As a researcher, this is another clue to me that…we need to research this.”

Another study Myrick contributed to, “Consuming memes during the COVID pandemic: Effects of memes and meme type on covid-related stress and coping efficacy,” found “statistically significant” data. who stated that “memes elicit more positive emotions than non-memes” – especially in relation to the coronavirus.

“When people were feeling good, they were like, ‘Yeah, I can handle the stress of the pandemic,’ a little more than people who didn’t see the memes or the memes about the stressful event,” said Myrick.

The study also found that seeing memes about a stressful event encouraged information processing and confidence in coping with coronavirus-related stress, Myrick said.

However, “although memes may have relieved COVID-related stress, they were not effective enough to relieve anxiety itself.”

Next, Myrick said she wanted to investigate whether the number of memes featured affected the participants.

Although Myrick’s presentation was not what local and Penn State alumna Traci Martin said she expected, she thought the talk was “interesting” and added that “it doesn’t never hurts to find out more about what’s going on.”

Research disconnected

Jessica Gall Myrick, professor of media studies at Penn State, discusses memes during the Research Unplugged event at the Schlow Center Region Library at State College, Pennsylvania on Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Comparatively, Whipple said she liked “being able to think about [the data] from a personal point of view” in his media consumption.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m consuming too much social media and I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this’ and then hearing, ‘Yeah, that makes you feel better’ … was reassuring,” Martin said.

While Whipple said she heard about it by word of mouth, Martin said she initially heard about the conference from her sister who often visits the library, saying it piqued her interest as an avid user. social media.

“I think I knew watching funny memes would make you feel a little better,” Martin said.

For Martin, as a social media user, it was “interesting” to see the meme responses during the conference.

“So hearing about memes and the different responses that people have – especially when it comes to [coronavirus] — I found this to be an interesting subject to discuss and explore.


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Angela C. Hale