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Climate change memes to prevent anxious dreams : using humor as a coping mechanism for climate change anxiety

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Title: Climate change memes to prevent anxious dreams : using humor as a coping mechanism for climate change anxiety
Author(s): Peters, Dana
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability
Specialisation: Global Sustainability
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
Concern about global warming can lead to climate change anxiety, a form of anxiety characterized by excessive worry about the climate crisis and associated consequences on the natural world and human society. It has been suggested by previous research that humor can be used to manage feelings of anxiety. This study seeks to determine if this phenomenon can be applied specifically to climate change anxiety. The research combines a comprehensive literature review with an online survey that leveraged climate change themed internet memes as a proxy for humor to gather opinions about the intersections between these two topics. The survey data supplemented claims made by existing literature, indicating that climate change themed internet memes and humor in general can be useful coping mechanisms to mitigate feelings of climate anxiety. The survey was completed by 93 respondents; most of these participants were women, located in the US, and/or between the ages of 20 and 29. Results from the survey showed that people tend to feel best about their environmental anxiety when they are taking active steps to solve the problem. Conscious decisions such as reducing waste or participating in activist movements are easier to recognize and self-report than more passive coping skills. Reliance on humor was reported as a supplementary coping skill, but many respondents indicated that looking at humorous climate change themed memes did influence their feelings about climate change overall. The scope of this study was relatively small in scale, therefore the results presented in this thesis may not be indicative of broader social trends and likely require further research.
Keyword(s): climate change anxiety humor internet online memes communication

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