ABOUT THE QUICK TAKE
After years of provoking hijinks and hilarity on the pages of reddit, memes have gone local. Success Kid is pumping his fist over finding an open table in the library, Paranoid Parrot is freaking out over the Norovirus, and Scumbag Steve has transformed into Scumbag Neil Kerwin. While some of these AU memes are certainly top-notch, does localizing memes destroy their former universal appeal? Is it a fad that will last? Our quick take columnists weigh in.
By Taylor Kenkel
To the AU meme addict, posts to the new AU Memes Facebook page might provide confirmation of shared experience and present distractions from the term paper due date lurking at the end of the month. After all, who wouldn’t take a break from schoolwork to laugh at an image of Success Kid gloating about being quoted correctly in The Eagle or an iteration of Imminent Ned bracing himself for the onslaught of fake sorority little sister Facebook pages?
The phenomenon of Facebook pages filled with university-specific memes is not unique to AU. Addiction to school-specific memes struck students from colleges from across the United States and Canada in the past few weeks, feeding on the popularity of Internet phenomena like LOLcats or the Cheezburger network sites.
Using viral Internet images to rant about college life, though, indicates a self-absorbed Internet experience and widespread misunderstanding of memes more than it makes the case for the existence of tight-knit college communities. At the most basic level, the appeal of school-specific memes stems in part from the average student’s need to find legitimacy in insignificant everyday experiences.
Memes existed long before the rise of the web. A meme itself is just an element of culture or unit of information that diffuses across a society through gestures, rituals, writing or any manner of imitation. Today, the almighty Internet just steps in to spread cultural information via recognizable images at warp speed.
Creators of AU-specific memes try to use recognizable Internet symbols as a way to spread individual frustration and consider shared experiences—everything from TDR’s fork shortage to loathing of the WONK campaign. In doing so, many posters end up abusing images of Insanity Wolf or Socially Awkward Penguin as a way to make otherwise uninteresting occurrences seem worthy of social relevance.
Reliance on a shared experience or sense of community to understand school-specific memes complicates the whole phenomenon. What exactly defines the “AU community” the memes purport to represent? Is it all the undergrads, or just the people in one dorm? Does it include the faculty and staff, or just the people you hang out with on Saturday night?
Claiming to know about the functions and implications of memes outside of the AU memes page smacks of hipster cat— but the widespread misinterpretation of use of cultural images and misuse of memes as vehicles for personal complaints warrants attention.
Some of the misunderstanding of Internet memes stems from a simple ignorance of their meaning. For example, one poster uploaded an image of Insanity Wolf calmly meditating on an onslaught of study abroad emails instead of threatening to rip out the responsible party’s jugular. While the misinterpretation of Insanity Wolf’s implications seems laughable, it also points to an underlying problem more of the AU memes exhibit. Instead of using the implied meaning of images to spread units of significant information, a number of memes end up sticking firmly in the category of personal rants.
Students probably don’t consider the larger cultural function of Internet memes even as they type bolded white text over images of philosoraptor. Engaging in pure procrastination or gathering more likes on Facebook seems easier than thinking about the function of memes in the context of the web.
When coupled with the failure to consider the impact of warp-speed idea diffusion, creating posts centered on legitimating the experience of one person or the school they claim to represent fits better on the college freshman meme than under the category of social significance.
By Will Beaudouin
As someone who has attended three different colleges over the past four years, it’s been fascinating to watch college-themed memes spread like wildfire over the past few weeks. My Facebook feed has been inundated with a deluge of memes mocking Penn State psych professors, mediocre Chicago bars, and AU’s WONK campaign. Considering my short time in each of these locales, I’ve perhaps missed some of the more nuanced references, but I’ve found most amusing.
With that said, it’s been bewildering to see how seemingly homogenized college life is across the board. When I look back on my time at each of these three schools, I recall three wholly different communities. I recollect three institutions that each offered unique experiences. I remember campuses, students, and professors that could only exist in their respective corners of the world. But over these past several weeks, I’ve slowly started to question if these perceptions actually mesh with reality. While often hilarious, these memes also show that these schools weren’t so different after all.
Through the lens of Boromir, Hipster Cat, and the like, the problems and inside jokes of each institution look startlingly similar. The only discernible difference between these memes is simply the name of the buildings or persons referenced. The punch lines are interchangeable. This might say more about the banalities of college life than anything regarding the greater community identity of the schools themselves. Or maybe the cookie cutter nature of meme generator lends itself to oft-repeated, unoriginal jokes. These are both strong possibilities. After all, it is just a Facebook fad born out of tried and true Internet humor. I was just hoping for a diversity of humor that was as unique as the times spent at each of three schools. Maybe that was just too much to expect from Conspiracy Keanu.
By Rachel Lomot
We have all seen them, laughed at them, and asked why we didn’t come up with them ourselves.
AU memes seem to be taking over our Facebook walls every time we attempt to do work—yet another distraction the AU population will have to overcome.
Some mock a certain school while others mock a certain place on campus. But even as a second semester freshman I laugh at every single one. Maybe it’s because I live on campus, but I have never felt so closely intertwined with a community before. I think these AU Memes play to that.
My high school was a large high school. It had almost 3,000 students. However, I’ve understood more inside jokes in the last five months than I did in four years at Framingham High. As I look through my yearbook I can only relate to a few of the jokes—most go right over my head. But something about AU, a community twice as large, is different than Framingham High School.
So which came first, the sense of community or the Memes?
“I think that the Meme define the community,” says Hazel Rosenthal, a Kogod freshman. “They brought us together by creating inside jokes that can be shared across the school.” On Parents’ Weekend, a month into my experience as an AU student, I already had shared inside jokes to them. Certain things, like knowing that there are no forks in TDR after 6 p.m. and that Letts is called “the Letto”, create a sense of community. In a way I think it helped me adjust to college life.
So, if anything the AU Meme page will give me something to show my brother when he visits. They will be sayings that I can revert back to when telling my friends back home about all of the funny things that happen here at AU. The inside jokes are so true they become funny.
After all, when you’re studying all day, searching for an internship, babysitting, and trying to figure out what you want to do after college—sometimes you need to mock life a little bit.