Coronavirus: Dark humor saves the day as millennials churn out memes, TikTok videos to overcome stress

Humor can evoke positivity in situations that manifest stress and anxiety and the meme culture becomes a coping mechanism, experts say

                            Coronavirus: Dark humor saves the day as millennials churn out memes, TikTok videos to overcome stress
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The internet is an endless library of memes and similar light-hearted content. Social media is notorious for supplying users with addicting, A-grade memes and videos, gradually giving rise to a culture of sorts. Memes have become the inside joke of the internet, in that, people who are in the loop and can relate to the information, constitute this culture. However, that's largely dependent on how one seeks to approach it.

Similarly, this has given rise to a sub-genre of humor. 'Dark humor', as it is infamously connoted, is defined by Urban Dictionary as "a form of humor involving a twist or joke making the joke seen as offensive, harsh, horrid. Yet the joke is still funny. You need to have a pension for dark humor to find it truly funny. In a way, it could be seen as the jokes are so horrible in their twist that it makes it funny."

Dark humor usually surfaces in times when tragedies strike or the situation in the real world is less than favorable. Even videos seem decodable to people that turn to them for comfort, deeming a coping mechanism. And as it can be noted, a large portion of the meme culture demographic hail from the millennial and Gen Z  breed of the population.

With the recent coronavirus outbreak, the internet seems to be overflowing yet again with memes and videos that have us all eliciting belly-aching laughter or just a chuckle to brighten up an otherwise foreboding mood. Pondering over its effects, it can be concluded that they ease troubled thoughts, but they don't help eradicate them.

Should you watch the Oscar-winning film 'Titanic', the sinking ship alludes to the world plagued by COVID-19 right now; and the band of musicians, still playing their instruments on board as the ship goes down would be the coronavirus memers.

Essentially, there's psychology involved behind the occupation of memes as part of daily conversation and life.

Chinese tourists wearing masks in Tokyo, Japan (Getty Images)


MEA Worldwide reached out to three professionals in the field of Psychology and spoke to them about the newer generations' dependence on dark humor and internet memes as a coping mechanism.

"I think restructuring negative conditions (such as worrying about coronavirus) using humor is just a common thing people do as a coping mechanism, and also by reducing the apparent seriousness of it through humor, it can reduce stress and anxiety surrounding it too," says Rahul Kashyap, Psychology student, University of Leeds.

Over the years, meme culture, be it textual or visual, and dark humor has become a survival hack. It gives scope for potential conversation over the online medium, where like-minded people often come together to share their struggles and thoughts in a way that makes them feel relatable, heard and optimistic, no matter the nature of the cause. To some, it has become an indispensable part of their lives, and to others, only a source of laughter.

"Humor helps cope with the stressors of our current existence. When a situation gets overwhelming, the human brain is wired to generate coping mechanisms that can either be adaptive or maladaptive to the individual. The main purpose of coping strategy is to relieve stress," says Psychologist, Rini Jacob.

Meghna Achar, an MSc graduate in Clinical Psychology, breaks down the structure for us. There are two types of coping: problem-focused and emotion-focused.  Problem-focused coping is when one can change the source of the stress and thereby cope with the stress. But in situations where the stressor, in this case, the coronavirus quarantining, is out of your control and there's no way but to deal with the stressor head-on, people resort to emotion-focused coping, changing one's emotional response to the stressor.  However, distraction is the altered response to stress.

"Emotion-focused coping also involves releasing pent-up emotions and managing hostile feelings," she adds. "Coping responses are partly controlled by personality or habitual traits, but also partly by the social environment, particularly the nature of the stressful environment."

In light of the current coronavirus outbreak that has spread panic and fear among individuals, the pandemic-inspired content has exploded all over the internet and social media is embracing it wholeheartedly. There are dark humor memes, light-hearted jokes, TikTok and Instagram videos, even handpicked quarantine playlists on Spotify! People have been resorting to multiple methods to calm themselves rather than give in to fear is Jacob's understanding.

"I think that approaching the pandemic from a light-hearted or humorous point of view could be beneficial to one's mental health because the ability to laugh during difficult times reduces the negative emotions surrounding the stressful event and builds positive feelings," Jacob explains further. "Finding humor in something as deadly as the coronavirus just goes to show that our generation chooses to view the situation from a different perspective, as less threatening, allowing us to cope with it better."

Contrary to popular belief that the internet is just as well ruining the young people's lives, it could just be a platform for self-expression. It has helped people to talk through their fears and open up about their mental health when the urge to overcome stress and anxiety hits.

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Here are 10 hilarious coronavirus memes that have us laughing-out-loud for days:

1. 'Before coronavirus, I'd cough to cover a fart. Now I fart to cover a cough.'

2. 'The coronavirus is my new crush, because that way, I'll never get it.'

3. 'Coronavirus ain't s**t. My ex was more toxic.'

4. 'The World Health Organisation has announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out.'

5. 'Coronavirus severely underestimates how long I can sit inside my house living off nothing but caffeine and shredded cheese.'

6. 'The coronavirus made flights so cheap I think it's finally time to start traveling. Lmaooooo. I'm here for a good time not a long time.'

7. 'Due to coronavirus, my summer body will be postponed until 2021. Thank you for understanding.'

8. 'I'm more terrified thinking about being stuck at home for 14 days with kids, than the virus itself'.

9. 'COVID-19 helping people realize that some meetings can be emails.'

10. 'I've been informed by a relative who is a middle school teacher that students are now referring to coronavirus as the 'boomer remover.'

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