Who’s laughing now: should we be laughing in the face of adversity?

COVID-19 is terrifying. The rapidity of the spread and the detrimental effect that it has had on our population, not only by our health but by our entire mode of being has so significantly thrown our lives in every direction, leaving no stone unturned. University, the gym, jobs, activities and hobbies have all been impacted, shut down or fundamentally changed their way of being. Our futures as students are left with a question mark. There is no one to get angry at because no one knows any more than you do, and there is no answer that will leave you happy. The truth, hard as it is, is that life as we know it is going to stop for a while and the effects of this incredible time are unknown but large. This frustration with nowhere to aim it, this boredom with nothing to fill it with and even if there is university work to do, ‘THE WORLD IS LITERALLY IN CHAOS, DON’T MAKE ME WRITE AN ESSAY RIGHT NOW ’ are the inner screams of the general student mind.

It is not a laughing matter, in fact it is the most serious issue to face the world in most of our lifetimes. Yet, all forms of social media have exploded with tweets, pictures and videos with a massive amount of reactions and sharing.

This questionable silver lining to the end of the world as we know it are the memes that have come out of it. With lots of spare time, frustration and world-wide relatable-ness of self-isolation and social distancing, some golden memes have come into existence.

Honestly, in 2020, most people can’t take any more bad news, and if jokes are the way to go then sure, go for it. In the face of a pandemic that has left the future so uncertain, where nothing much is left to look forward to and nothing else to concentrate on. Sure, COVID is going to be the start, middle and end of all jokes in this period, but it is the only thing on anyone’s minds so of course all jokes are also going to be centred on it.

However, the internet has already shown itself as being ugly and invasive in people’s lives this year. Caroline Flack was a victim and then a martyr of this, an example of where the law can easily be taken into anyone’s hands with access to a keyboard and judged with cruel jokes, without the impact on people’s lives. And Corona isn’t different, and actually is even more universally dangerous to physical and, consequently, mental health.

Laughing at the COVID memes didn’t seem as bad a week ago when the threat was at a distance and no one was taking it seriously. Cut to now and the country is minutes to lockdown, anxiety is high, confusion is everywhere and there are no answers to be found.

A joke is taking away from the seriousness of the situation, of the lives lost and the lives at threat. There are TikToks and memes of people simply not taking self-isolation seriously, people going about their lives, about how their summer holidays have been rudely ruined.

However, there is something heart-warming to see people spreading some joy in self-isolation. Cheesy TikTok dance videos, skits with families in quarantine and recreation of funny moments in pop-culture (Ashley Tisdale, preforming ‘We’re all in this Together’, I’m looking at you), it shows a whole online community together, with a few exceptions, of finding fun and laughs and stress-relieving in a really, really horrible situation. It is a way of taking back power in a situation that feels so hopeless.

Twitter will always be a mix of a dark pit of evil and of actual humour gold, but people feel helpless and sometimes a platform to shout in the void must be taken to, to spread some kind of stress reliever. Corona literally spreads quicker than the next biggest tweet and so share the funny videos of people working from home, embracing their ‘corona staycation’ fashion looks.

Thus, good wholesome community memes make the world feel closer together in isolation: here is a fun dance from my house for you to laugh at and recreate from your house.

The world is sorely in need of a laugh and the phrase ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ has never been more relevant.

The world is always going to be imperfect, right now catastrophically imperfect, but we can keep laughing and sharing our creativeness in the form of humour, and pop-culture and jokes are historically shaped by whatever calamity, madness or pandemic is facing the news at that time. With a large amount of sensitivity and awareness for people’s feelings, funny pictures and tweets on social media is literally the only silver lining that I can think of. Social distancing is made so much easier by the lack of need to distance yourself online, connecting the world when physically we have to stay away.

So, laugh away, bust that stress, because it turns out the world is full of lots of very funny, very bored, very anxious, amazing people.

Image: HSM lover via Flickr

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The Student Newspaper 2016