Memes as Images that Envisage Social Representations in Social Media.

The Case of Internet Memes on Remote Teaching during the COVID-19 Confinement

  • Silvia Gutiérrez-Vidrio Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Xochimilco, México
  • Yazmín Cuevas Cajiga Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México
Keywords: Images, Social representations, internet memes, education, COVID-19


In recent years, the study of social representations through images, icons, drawings, and the like, has attracted the attention of researchers interested in analyzing the role visual devices play in the elaboration and interpretation of Social Representations and Social Imaginary. Along the same lines, in this paper we study some visual elements that can provide relevant information for exploring and reconstructing social representations. These visual units are called Memes “units of popular culture that are circulated, imitated, and transformed by individual Internet users, creating a shared cultural experience in the process” (Shifman, 2013, p. 367); they generate and shape the mindsets and significant forms of behavior and actions of a social group.

Memes spread a particular idea as presented in images, animated GIFs, videos, written text, or some other units of cultural practices. They give rise to the materialization of the expression of a given social reality within which individuals and social groups live which is why we consider them as useful tool for communicating and reconstructing social representations. During the COVID-19 confinement, many internet memes circulated but we decided to study those on remote learning and teaching since education in that period was a great challenge. The corpus of study was gathered by manually tagged searches on social media such as Facebook, Reddit and Twitter using the following hashtags: #virtualeducation, #remoteteaching, #pandemicandschool. The internet memes analyzed show the difficulties students faced when they were confronted with remote teaching and the emotional states they experienced. These expressions and meanings allow us to reconstruct the social representation they have of this modality of teaching.