Are Coronavirus Memes Ethical?

We see it everywhere. Our Instagram feeds are an ocean of coronavirus related content, especially memes. Don’t get me wrong, Instagram memes always brighten up my day, but something felt off about laughing at this ongoing pandemic. 

Knowing most people our age aren’t at risk (for now), a few jokes towards the frustrations of the virus seems harmless to a lot of viewers. However, the virus is actually quite severe if not dealt with properly and joking about it may be stopping people from acting accordingly. If everyone believed they were in real danger, I don’t think these memes would be as popular. As much as they are fun to laugh at since they relate to our use of online classrooms, sports being canceled, and the overall annoyances of this pandemic, they ignore the dangers associated with the coronavirus.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

These kids are ruthless 🥶😳 @messyslushy @messyslushy

A post shared by MESSY SLUSHY (@messyslushy) on

For example, it's not news to anyone that Italy has shown to suffer a great deal. Between the lack of respirators, timely government intervention, and the exponential spread of the disease, the country is in a state of devastation. After a government order to stay home, people are forced to remain inside or risk facing fines. According to an article from the New York Times, the situation is so bad that people are not even allowed to attend the funeral of their loved ones, and sometimes have to wait days for these funerals to even happen because that many people have passed away already. If you showed them your memes, I’m not sure everyone would be quick to laugh. 

This also goes for viewers at risk by the virus, no matter the age or where they live. Meme accounts tend to ignore the fact that some viewers are at risk due to compromised immune systems and respiratory issues. To them, seeing people laughing at a threat to their lives cannot always be an enjoyable experience.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

more corona memes for y’all

A post shared by public meme pages >>> (@lolsorelatable101) on

To me, this content represents the lack of seriousness our generation is presenting toward this pandemic. Between the cheap vacations and the lack of proper quarantining, young people fail to understand the risk they carry for spreading the virus. Regardless of the mortality rate, they should be aware that they are vessels that enable the virus’s spread and could cause a lot more damage. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

my English professor cancelled class so I got to leave early 🤪✌️

A post shared by 🔬🦠 (@mit0chondria) on

In an article from Newsweek, a doctor from a major hospital in western Europe explains the horrifying scenes from Italy and how he fears that young Americans are taking this disease too lightly. Italy represents the importance of how we choose to address this threat. If we continue to ignore quarantine orders, government advice, and other preventative measures, we’ll end up in the same terrible situation. Between the ignorance of the virus' characteristics and the overall lightheartedness some people view the pandemic with, the US is at risk.

On the other hand, I think that coronavirus memes also serve as a form of dark humor to lighten the soon to be infected air. Some people do realize the severity, and memes are a fun way to realize some people relate to your frustrations. We all understand that online classes are going to be a pain, especially with the thousands of technology malfunctions that are bound to occur. We all miss our friends and the comfort of our college dorms. We miss our independence and the freedom to go out when we want. Memes are a way to know the rest of the world feels the same way which in turn provides a sense of comfort. 

Overall, memes can be a way to relax during a stressful time. However, there is also an insensitive and dangerous aspect that distances the virus from its actual threat. These jokes can turn people away from acting justly and preventing the spread of the virus. I’m not asking for coronavirus memes to be taken down, but I ask that people educate themselves, pop their social media bubbles, and look at the rest of the world.

Prevention measures have proven to be extremely beneficial in China, Japan, and South Korea; let's follow the same path as these countries. Memes should provide comic relief rather than discouraging people from acting correctly.

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