Background. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought dramatic changes to all spheres of life. These changes have triggered an immediate response from the media, including social media, which repeatedly posts not only up-to-date information about this most relevant issue, but also users’ reactions to it, including Internet memes.
Objective. The research presented in this article focused on comparing the psychological and ethnocultural sensitivities in the perception of COVID-19memes by young people in Russia and China.
Design. The selected sample contained 108 respondents (n = 108), comprised of 50 Chinese and 58 Russian university students. The study consisted of two procedures: a survey and a student’s t-test on the perception of specific Internet memes.
Results. The main results were that memes which evoke a positive response from the respondents and cheer them up were scored the highest. Such qualities as relevance, kindness, cheerfulness, creativity, meaningfulness, and thought-provoking ability were rated high. Each group of respondents gave a higher score to “our own” memes and a lower score to the other group’s memes. It is generally typical of the Chinese to have a more positive perception of reality. We ascertained a tendency towards polarization of opinions and focus on individualization among the Russian respondents, whereas the Chinese respondents strove for orderliness and consensus.
Conclusion. As a whole, COVID-19 memes in such ethnoculturally different audiences as the Russians and Chinese serve a compensatory function for young people, helping them overcome the hardships of the pandemic through the memes’ relevance and creative character.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; media; Internet; memes; perception; young audience