Laced with testimonials from patients and newborn Buckeyes, Wexner Medical Center’s Instagram has built in a new way to combat misinformation about COVID-19: memes.
The Medical Center’s Social Media and Engagement Team uploaded memes and pop culture moments like Aaron Rodgers’ recent positive COVID-19 diagnosis and unvaccinated status to the hospital’s Instagram page, @osuwexmed.
The memes follow the team’s larger goal of educating the public and promoting the hospital’s scientific achievements across all its platforms, said Kelly McDonald, director of social media and engagement.
“There’s science or there’s no science, and we’re on the side of science and we’re not going to step back from that,” McDonald said. “There might be some that aren’t as funny as the others, or that not everyone finds as funny as the first we did, but all we can do is keep pushing that information out.”
Though she dipped her toes in memes to positive reception in early 2020, McDonald said Joey Dillon, the medical center’s in-house social media leader, influenced the decision to post more trendy posts on his social media accounts. the hospital. After a blessing from their boss, they started making more memes, she said.
However, McDonald said what’s underneath the memes is the most important part of the posts: detailed captions that dispel myths and misinformation about COVID-19.
“Yeah, we’ll get you in with the meme itself,” Dillon said. “But we’re trying to bring them in and see that caption.”
McDonald and Dillon said combining humor with hard facts about a global pandemic isn’t easy, but they try to make sure the posts are educational and respectful of the topic.
“It’s a careful consideration not to try to make COVID seem like something light-hearted,” McDonald said. “I think Joey and I often have conversations there like, ‘How are we supposed to phrase this caption?’ and: ‘Is this too big of a joke?’ ”
McDonald said the reception was mostly positive, with the best performing meme presentation rapper Future as a toxic ex-boyfriend, collecting the second most likes on the account and shared over 3,000 times.
“Knowing that there will be no long-term side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine got me thinking about how I thought we would be in the long run,” the Future meme photo stated. “Anyway, you don’t have to respond. I just wanted to say that my feelings for you have not broken down like mRNA in the vaccine within hours to days of the injection.”
The caption describes how the vaccines have no significant long-term side effects and explains the science behind mRNA vaccines and “rare side effects,” such as myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle.
“I think it was the Met Gala meme that someone said, ‘The intern who runs your social media deserves a raise,'” McDonald said. And I wrote back, ‘I’m 34, but thanks.’ ”
The educational content doesn’t stop at memes; the social media team has worked since the start of the pandemic to promote public health best practices and the progress the medical center has made in immunization coverage on Instagram. McDonald said these campaigns met opposition in the comments section, especially from people who mistrust or refuse vaccines, which became frustrating.
McDonald said the team wanted to use their social media accounts as the best way to reach people seeking verifiable and scientifically accurate information about the vaccine.
“To me, it’s not the people in the comments who say, ‘F—the vaccine, we’re not getting this, it’s the mark of the beast,'” McDonald said. “It’s more about the people reading these comments who may not have made up their mind yet and don’t know what’s true or not.”
Dillon said that as a public institution, the social media team cannot delete comments, so it replies to them strictly with scientific reasoning. The accounts are managed and monitored by the team 24/7, and the constant back and forth can be exhausting, he said.
“Yes, we are an institution, but there are people behind it and I think people tend to forget that people have emotions and feelings,” Dillon said. “Like the frontline workers who have been through all of this, it’s also mentally taxing for us to compete.”