Posting memes ridiculing those who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19 is something that has become fashionable, as well as memes ridiculing those who are in favor of the vaccine.
However, neither the real objective of these memes is to change the opinions of others, nor are they very effective (rather they produce the opposite effect). Simply put, posting memes on social media is unlikely to change your mind about vaccination .
Why do we post memes?
Two decades of research show that we post memes or any other content on social media for three fundamental reasons:
- To show an idealized image of ourselves. That is, to sell ourselves in partnership .
- To display and support our group memberships, be it our family, a political party, or our love for a sports team (also whether we are pro science or anti science).
- Get attention and receive feedback. It’s a way to get the attention and likes of like-minded people within the social media circle.
Influencing others and changing their opinions is the fourth reason for posting content on social media, but it is usually the least important for our purposes. Additionally, this fourth reason can only be effective on the subset of social media influencers, either because they are very popular and have a large following on social media or because they are experts in a particular field.
For most social media users, the three main motivations are much more relevant. Posting a meme in favor of the vaccine is a way of publicly expressing support for vaccination and all related political and social positions associated with such support.
Furthermore, as the scientific literature already suggests on the matter , in general attempts to persuade someone with a point of view opposite to ours hardens and polarizes the existing attitudes of the target. Let’s not say if those attempts are covered with the sarcasm of a meme .
With regard to vaccines , we are also in an urgent scenario where there is an excess of contradictory information. We could try pedagogy, try to inform people, even try to persuade them with the best possible rhetoric. However, if this does not work and we are in a hurry, it would be like trying to debate with a passenger on a plane how to proceed in the face of an approaching storm.
Finally, we have to place our trust, to a greater or lesser extent, in the pilot’s decisions (which can be publicly audited); And to achieve this without stumbling into totalitarianism, perhaps a more useful strategy would be the so-called libertarian paternalism :