Internet memes in Covid-19 lockdown times in Poland
Keywords:Covid-19, memes, participatory culture, protests, lockdown, satire
Poland was one of the countries that was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and its government imposed restrictions to combat the spreading of the virus. The Internet and social media became outlets for people’s reactions to the events that unfolded, including the lockdown. A part of this reaction came in the form of creating and sharing memes – an expression of digital participatory culture. This paper aims to analyze how Covid-19 was communicated and narrated through Internet memes and how they presented the pandemic and actors responsible for fighting it. 1,763 memes from six media platforms were analyzed using content analysis with framing elements and a comparative narrative analysis. The results show that the memes provided a form of commentary on the situation experienced by Poles. The most common category of memes was “bans and orders”, involving restrictions that were often criticized and ridiculed as pointless. The main characters within the memes were ordinary citizens, often portrayed in a comedic way as careless in regards to the virus and violating the restrictions. They were also presented as victims of the police and the government. Furthermore, the people responsible for fighting the pandemic were portrayed as incompetent and imposing needlessly severe restrictions and penalties for not abiding by them.