Religious Responses to Social Distancing Revealed through Memes during the COVID-19 Pandemic Academic Article uri icon


  • This article examines the emotive narratives surrounding the new normal of social distancing practices during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, as revealed by religion-focused Internet memes. In March 2020, many people were introduced to the concept of social distancing for the first time via news reports and media coverage of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic which led to the first lockdown. As the year progressed, social distancing discourse was combined with discussion of the practices of masking and quarantining, all of which became part of many countries normal routines as a public health management strategy. Over time, social distancing has become a widely used public health strategy impacting many social groups, including religious adherents and their places of worship. Memes became a discursive space where practices of social distancing and religious attitudes towards these practices were expressed and debated. By examining memes centered on American Christianity, this study reveals that memetic narratives in the early months of the pandemic indicate a positive framing of behaviors intended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and a negative framing of the attitudes of religious individuals and organizations who seem to privilege the cultural practices of their belief over the core values of the Christian faith.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 5

author list (cited authors)

  • Campbell, H. A., & Sheldon, Z.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Campbell, Heidi A||Sheldon, Zachary

publication date

  • January 2021