Tag Archives: College

Trend Story- Internet Memes at College

2 Jul

A trend story I’ve written for my Critic Review in Spring 2012.

Trend Story


          Jack Li, 21, studies finance at Baruch College.  He describes many of his classes as “insufferable” but one class in particular that he had recently driven him crazy.  In this class, the professor talked with a very thick accent, making understanding impossible. This was one of the most important classes Li needed to take.

One day, when he had had enough, he snapped the professor’s picture, and quickly whipped up a “meme”, with the professor’s face juxtaposed with a funny caption.  Li covertly showed off the meme to the rest of the class, resulting in stifled giggles and guffaws from his peers.

“A lot of my classmates laughed when I showed them it,” Li said.  “It was great.”

Li is not the only one who has done this.  Many other students at Baruch College have started making memes that have to do with Baruch College.

A meme is an image combined with text in an attempt to humor others, usually through catharsis.

          Memes are a new artistic form of expression, and many college students across the country are starting to create memes distinct to their particular college experience.  Baruch students are not alone in this trend: other colleges like Hunter and NYU have also started making and collecting memes as well.Memes have become popular because they are funny,short, and easy to make.

At Baruch, several memes have popped up that range from complaints about the escalators not working to jokes about the eSims application, a web service that does a bad job helping Baruch students register for classes.

Creating college themed memes and hosting them online for everyone to see is quickly becoming the go-to form of artistic expression for many college students.  College memes are becoming more and more popular thanks to the perfect storm of several things.

Websites like 9Gag and Meme Generator give everyone the tools they need to make memes.  Websites like Facebook make it easy to put all of these memes somewhere and show them off.  A healthy dose of student apathy also contributes.

Art has always been about expression and communication, and pop art continually challenges the old notions of the art world, using often-abstract images or wording to convey ideas.  But more often than not, the limit on this expression was artistic talent.  Creating images to express ideas rested only on the shoulders of artists.

But thanks to Internet culture, where one can give out as much as he can take in, making memes has become the de facto way of expressing both emotion and ideas.  The magic of memes is that nowadays, everyone has a shot at it.  College students are now just picking up on this idea, using Internet memes to both inform and to entertain.

These Internet memes were born on the message board 4chan, a website established in 2003.  4chan is an imageboard, meaning that there is an emphasis on depicting things through images.  The website allows users to browse and upload images anonymously, and makes sharing images incredibly easy.

This is where the Internet meme was born, and memes today often get popularized on 4chan.

CUNY Baruch College is just one of the many colleges that have a meme database.  Its operation is based on Facebook, and is run by Baruch student Villi Shteyn, the page opened in February 2012.  It currently has over 2000 likes and 200 Baruch-inspired memes.

“Memes are a medium for expressing similar thoughts in slightly different wording,” Shteyn said.

Each college or university has its own pocket universe, and college-based memes can be started by almost anything.  In New York City, the recent growth in college memes is often credited to the recent spate of protests popping up around the city.  Creating memes about

Shteyn believes that making memes has become a popular way for Baruch students to cope with and share the many stresses that a typical student will encounter at Baruch College.  “They’re definitely art,” Shteyn explained.  “Because just like any song, poem, or movie, they’re the same shit over and over again.”

Yet, memes are a complicated art form in that most of them require some sort of foreknowledge on the part of the audience in order to “get” the message.  Through association, certain images will indicate certain ways an audience is supposed to feel about a particular subject.

A picture of a baby thrusting a fist up in the air, over time, has become a symbol of the small victories in life.  Anyone who understands this picture can caption it using their college experiences, and share it with others.  One baby meme found on the Baruch Memes website was captioned “Don’t know the answer to a question on the test:  answer is in another question.”

The magic of college memes, however, is that they are made through another set of circumstances.  Many memes posted on these Facebook groups are college-specific, and require some inside information in order for the audience to get the joke.

For example, a meme submitted to Baruch Memes from Jessica Soler, a student, depicts a comic strip where a character wearing her iPod walks through the scanners at the library, and screams in pain as she passes through due to the feedback.  For anyone who doesn’t go to Baruch, this meme will go right over their head.  But Baruch Student’s share this experience with the artist, and they get in on the joke.

College meme’s are only growing in popularity, and more and more are being made every day.  Mike Rugnetta, a composer, programmer, and performer, was recently brought on by PBS to talk about memes.  “What’s exciting is that this is a body of work produced collaboratively by tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.  Anyone can get involved.  That’s something we’ve never seen before.”

CUNY Baruch is not alone in the growing trend.  Other colleges are also beginning to host web pages for memes specific to their campus.  Colleges like Hunter College have been created later, but their popularity is growing quickly.

The meme’s from Hunter share some similarities with the memes of Baruch, and many of them don’t require knowledge of Hunter to get.  But similarly to Baruch, Hunter has its own share of insider memes, meant specifically for the enjoyment of the Hunter students.

Another popular picture for memes is one of a college student in a grey hoodie smiling at the camera while holding his phone.  This image also has a definition.  It’s commonly called “College Freshman” and any meme that comes up with this image will usually describe a situation a dumb college freshman might find himself in.  On the Hunter Meme’s page, a “College Freshman” picture is captioned “Time to Cross Hunter Skywalk…takes out phone.”

New York University also has its own meme page on Facebook.  It was founded on Feb. 6, 2012, and now has over 6,000 likes and hundreds and hundreds of memes.  Each one is submitted by a NYU student, and each one says something about their experiences and NYU.

“A lot of people have responded to it because it connects to what they experience on a daily basis and because people would rather mock the system they are in than get off their ass and actually do something about it.” Shteyn said, about college memes.  “I am one of those people.”