As coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, memes are essentially ideas that replicate and evolve through imitation. Thanks to the Internet, these mutating concepts have become a modern staple, most recently with their rapid rise in popularity across campuses.
Media and students alike have been expressing their astonishment at the flash flood of college humor this month, as PBS notes. According to KnowYourMeme.com, the momentum started with Florida International University of Miami when the school launched its Facebook meme page on Oct. 1, 2011. Apparently, FIU’s football team’s performance had been disappointing, judging by the site’s first post: “FIU … Y U NO Make Touchdown?”
(LIST: Top 10 Memes of 2011)
As the fall continued, more clever college sites joined the trend, including McGill University’s Tumblr blog “McGill Memes” and Appalachian State University’s “App State Memes Facebook Page.” Since then, the Internet has seen a flurry of students offering comedic takes on “Success Baby, “Dos Equis” and “College Freshman” (aka “Uber Frosh.”)
It’s viral school spirit, and large schools like University of Texas A&M, Duke and Northwestern are leading the way with the most “liked” Facebook pages, where students can create and post memes inspired by rivalries, revelry, bad cafeteria food or school stereotypes, as Mashable’s list of the top 20 college memes points out.
At Boston University, sophomores David LeHouillier and Nicole Black co-created the BU Memes Facebook page as a way to share inside jokes and create unity among students, Boston University’s independent student newspaper the Daily Free Press reports. Much like those before it, the site took off overnight, garnering more than 5,500 “likes” and hundreds of meme postings almost immediately.
“It just went into a snowball effect and became the success it is now,” LeHouillier told the Free Press. “I haven’t had time to get actual work done amidst all this fun.”
But not everyone is excited about the trend. According to Know Your Meme, members of Reddit’s “terriblefacebookmemes” forum expressed their distaste by posting unseemly “Advice Animals” to college Facebook meme pages. Meanwhile, another group calling itself “Operation: Higher Education,” spammed pages with pornographic images and obscenities, managing to take a handful of sites offline.
Despite the haters’ considerable efforts, NewsFeed has a feeling it will take more than porn pranks and expletive-uttering animals to cool meme fever. Thanks to sites such as Quick Meme and University Meme Generator, anyone can contribute to the mass meme-manufacturing. And if you need more inspiration, you can check out a Funny or Die slideshow of the catchiest Uber Frosh image macros, featuring then-University of New Hampshire freshman Griffin Kiritsy’s famous face.