There’s a new phenomenon that’s invading college campuses across the country. It is capturing the minds and study time of the college population. The Internet Meme has finally come to campus.
If you’re a current student at Syracuse University, you’ve more than likely stumbled upon the SU Memes Facebook page by now. It’s a collection of commonly used and original memes making funny observations about student life at SU. But checking my Facebook feed, I quickly realized SU wasn’t the only school with a meme page. There have been college meme pages set up for SUNY Binghamton, Baruch College, Stanford, NYU, Ohio State, McGill, Oxford and countless others across the country and actually, the world. Breaking news, images with funny captions on them are now really, really popular.
“Meme” (rhymes with “dream”, also with “theme” and “cream”, just don’t say “meh-meh”) is the scientific term for a unit of information that virally spreads cultural ideas within a group of people. The term was coined by biologist Richard Dawkins back in 1976, in discussing the evolution of culture. You can think of memes as a way to replicate and spread an idea across a population, much like biological genes replicate and spread genetics across a population. Memes are the cultural equivalent of genes. Because they spread thoughts, not genetics, memes are not necessarily physical, and can be spread through text, speech, video, or in the case of our college meme pages, funny captioned images on the Internet.
The Internet meme takes this meme concept into the information age, spreading cultural material at a ferocious pace never seen before. It is much easier for ideas to “go viral” and become one with the collective cultural consciousness of society. You’ve probably been affected by memes before; LOLcats, getting rickrolled, and Chuck Norris jokes have all turned into commonplace cultural experiences that a good amount of the Internet browsing population has internalized and become familiar with in their daily lives. This is the cultural power of the meme.
An important aspect of memes lies in their ability to evolve. This is how memes have been able to easily integrate and adapt to the campus environment. Many Internet memes consist simply of an image with some superimposed text, used to convey a (usually humorous) concept. These images are then reused and re-captioned by others, propagating the original idea of the meme but remixing it with a new flavor.
College students around the country have been picking up on these memes and superimposing their own campus-specific humor on them. You’ll find plenty of user-generated content on questionable dining hall food, sports rivalries, eccentric professors, high tuition rates, social interactions, the lack of parking space, and many other college experiences that the student body shares. Some content will be very campus specific while some will be more relevant to college in general.
The explosion of college meme pages has been aided in part by the fact that students can now quickly create their own memes using tools on the Internet. There are plenty of resources out there that let everyday users create their own images based on popular memes, such as quickmeme and Meme Generator. When creating your own, be sure that you understand the meme’s original concept correctly, or else you might receive some backlash from the community’s more experienced contributors. You can use Know Your Meme to check up on what idea an Internet meme is spreading and understand how it is used.
Internet memes, once more tightly relegated to sites like 4chan and Reddit, have now become commonplace to college students. They’re now an enjoyable, hilarious, and time wasting experience for the student masses, not just the savvy internet nerds. So enjoy clicking through your college meme page and possibly even create your own content. Just remember to enjoy memes responsibly. Y U No finish assignment?!
All images are from the SU Memes page on Facebook.