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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Memes reveal students’ mental health

Should we be concerned about dark humor memes?

Last summer, I joined a Facebook group called “Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens.” This group in particular is for “socially isolated college youth stuck doing online courses in closed universities.” There are a variety of memes that people post. Some memes play off of trending topics and news (the Ever Given container ship that blocked the Suez Canal made for some pretty good memes), and some memes aren’t related to anything specific but are nevertheless relatable and funny.

The majority of the posts in the group are memes related to life as a college student during a pandemic. While I enjoy reading through the memes and sharing them with my friends, I can’t help but think of how dark the humor can be sometimes. Many of the posts reveal how burnt out students are and how the mental health of students is taking a turn for the worse.

One meme has the caption “me at this point in the semester” with the poster of Disney Pixar’s film “Finding Nemo,” but with the word “Nemo” crossed off and replaced with “the will to live.” Memes like this one clearly convey that students are struggling to stay motivated in school while also maintaining their mental health. The memes express the stress, anxiety, frustration and burnout that many college students are experiencing.

Navigating college during a global pandemic has not been easy. We’ve had to accept the loss of our spring break, the loss of club sports the loss of campus activities and events and the loss of all the things that make college memorable. There has been no time for us to properly de-stress and relax.

One meme that perfectly encompasses this feeling is a stick figure dad coming into the room of his stick figure son asking “are u ok,” and the son is lying on the ground surrounded by papers, headphones and a laptop. All around the son is text that says “Due at 11:59 p.m.,” “Absent,” “Inbox (184)” and “*** posted a new assignment!” If this doesn’t perfectly describe the current college experience, then I’m not sure what does.

While these memes may seem like innocent ways to make college students laugh, these memes are unfortunately one of the only ways students seem to be able to communicate how they feel. This dark humor is almost like a coping mechanism for students. Knowing that we all are collectively suffering through a similar experience makes the pain and stress just a little bit more bearable.

Nearly every day there are about a dozen new memes posted on “Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens.” I spend more time than I should reading through them, but that’s because looking at memes seems to be one of the only stress relievers I have nowadays.

College students are feeling exhausted from worrying about classes, trying to stay safe during a pandemic and working through the emotional toll of dealing with racism in the U.S. We need a break, a real one that lasts more than just a weekend. Since we were never able to take time away from our classes, getting through the last few weeks of this semester has been rough to say the least.

Dark humor memes reveal the effect that this pandemic, and college life in general, has on the mental health of college students. We’re all searching for motivation that just isn’t there and we’re all counting down the days until the semester ends. At this point, it isn’t even about school anymore; it’s just about surviving through each day without having a total mental breakdown.

With only three more weeks of school left, we’re all looking forward to finishing finals week and going home to finally unwind and relax for the summer. Three weeks is still a long time though. Every day I wake up questioning whether I have the mental strength to keep pushing through each day. I can’t wait to finally go home and spend time with my turtle, Chip, and eat dinner with my mom.

I’m hopeful that maybe one day, college students won’t have to rely on making memes in order to express how they feel. Until that day comes, the mental health of college students will continue to take a turn for the worse. This year has taken a toll on all of us and we deserve the time and space to properly process and reflect on everything that has happened.

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