On March 16, Twitter user @bladeweiser tweeted a video of a woman dancing with the caption: “Me after working from home headed to happy hour in my kitchen”. At the beginning of the year, tweets like these may not have made much sense, but by mid-March of 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing became a stranger to no one.
With many states in the nation under some degree of stay-at-home orders, more and more quarantined people are using social media to cope through relatable and comical content. However, what might be considered a lighthearted joke for some on these platforms is also considered insensitive and inappropriate to others.
For American University (AU) student Paige Goldstein, the viral jokes about the virus and social distancing help her get through it all.
“They’re funny and they’re uplifting,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with a little humor to keep peoples’ spirits up right now.”
Goldstein hopes to stay positive and said that she has found community through social media while staying home. “All of us just going into hermit holes and being sad and angry all the time is not what needs to be happening.”
While student Claudette Soler does agree that humor is an efficient way for people to feel better about reality, her individual circumstance has made her have a different approach than many in the United States.
Soler was studying abroad with AU in Madrid, Spain when her program abruptly ordered her to return home to the Dominican Republic due to the worsening pandemic. She said that airport closures and strict international guidelines at the time made traveling home incredibly difficult for her.
“You saw people joking online about being able to travel for very cheap and being careless about going out and it all just felt very insensible,” Soler said.
She advised others to post with empathy and to put themselves in the shoes of those who may not have the same privileges.
“You might be blessed enough to be home safely with your family creating funny memes but think about elderly people, the people in the medical field that can’t be around their children,” she said.
“Think about the people that have lost family members and friends.”– Claudette Soler
Artist and former AU student Sameera Rajwade, who said that she regularly consumes memes via social media, said that there is a proper way to create content so as not to be offensive or insensitive. Rajwade said that social media users should avoid encouraging or creating racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes in any context.
“If they’re intentionally poking fun at a certain demographic then it definitely crosses the line,” they said. As an example, the artist mentioned xenophobic and racist jokes that have circulated the internet in regard to Chinese people and the Coronavirus origin. “They just aren’t funny,” Rajwade said.
While she said that she understands the negative possibilities of Coronavirus jokes, Rajwade also recognizes the opportunities that they can create as well.
“Memes are unique to our generation,” the artist said. “They show our unique and dark humor. I love them. They comfort me,” she said. “There’s also nothing else to do, so looking at memes is really entertaining.”
Outside of social media, activist Perah Ralin said that there are many other activities to keep busy during quarantine. Ralin, for example, focuses their time on art, creating, and organizing.
“I don’t have any power over the Coronavirus so I’m exuding the power that I do have over myself by staying calm and washing my hands and telling people to do the same,” they said. “We have to do as much as we can, but we have to be reasonable.”