funny photo, girl with a smartphone

Coronavirus and memes

Internet memes are an extremely popular way of commenting on the reality that surrounds us or current events. It is no different during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the network is flooded with a wave of memes on this subject.

Fear for our health and that of our loved ones, information chaos, panic, uncertainty, restrictions on professional or social life - all this negatively affects our well-being. Everyone is trying to deal with stress in his own way, an effective method for many Internet users are pandemic and quarantine memes.

What is a meme? It is an image or video distributed online paired with a concept or catchphrase - usually humorous or ironic. Its purpose is to cause some reaction in the viewer: make you laugh or cry, draw attention to a problem or even cause disgust.

The popularity of memes is explained by the current cult of the image. We read less and less. When scrolling, i.e. scrolling content on social networking sites, graphics draw the most attention.

We assimilate them much easier than only the written text. That's why meme makers care about spreading them on the Internet. The greater the popularity of a meme, the greater the satisfaction of its creator.

In the face of the current, uncertain situation, memes gain another important feature: make us distant to reality. We are familiarizing ourselves with what the news stations communicate to us in a serious, sometimes disturbing way. Turning fear into a joke is a way for many of us to calm down, calm ourselves- thanks to this, "we are not going crazy."

However, let's remember about the right approach to memes. Making fun of serious situations can help to deal with disturbing emotions, but it cannot make us completely underestimate the threat. Some memes in a funny way remind us of ways to avoid coronavirus infection - for example, showing inappropriate behaviour. It can therefore be said that they even have an educational role to some extent. Others, however, may have a high level of absurdity or a deeply hidden, hardly detectable irony. How many people, so many types of sense of humour - so we won't always be able to sense the intentions of the creator of such an online work.

Unfortunately, memes are not always just innocent entertainment. The meme makers are not necessarily accompanied by positive and honest intentions. The memes can be created and disseminated in order to spread misinformation, introduce information chaos or discredit the social groups or specific people. So we must get some distance on them and criticism.

In the age of fake news, we cannot treat them as a source of reliable information. Sometimes, however, even journalists or politicians forget about it, sharing  the memes without verifying their content. Recently, we even see cases of memes with images of Hollywood actors signed with imaginary names of non-existent specialists with false and controversial quotes. Later they are unreflectively shared on the social profiles by celebrities, exposed themselves to public ridicule and online hate.

Let's not forget about another threat resulting from creating and sharing memes - using someone's image. This popular form of communication among the children and young people can even become a tool of crime! Our intentions don't matter. Perhaps when posting a friend's photo in an awkward situation online and attaching a funny picture caption, we have no bad intentions.

However, it can happen that from the beginning such a meme will be a way to let unload your frustration or hate towards a given person. Let us rememberabout the power of the Internet, where the distribution of such a photo can take just a few minutes. Such a situation may end in public ridicule of the "victim" of the of the meme’s author.

A person who becomes a "hero” of a meme has the right to react, numerous legal remedies  help in this situation. First of all, each of us has the right to protect his or her image. If we are a private person, no one can upload our photos or recordings without our permission – this is the basic form of privacy violation. If someone makes a meme from our photo, we are dealing with a violation of our good name. If we offend someone with a modification or signature of a photo, the wronged person may file an accusation of defamation or insult to law enforcement authorities.

The penalty for libel by means of a meme may be more severe than penalty for an ordinary slander, because the Internet is considered a medium of mass media. Remember to use the Internet wisely and properly filter the content, and respect other people, also in the virtual world. Let's think before we click the "share" button. Let’s teach the youngest children the same thing- especially now, when we spend more time together online.