Was COVID the death of the college Facebook meme group? - MrLiambi's blog

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Sunday, 8 August 2021

Was COVID the death of the college Facebook meme group?

College student meme page Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens became more popular than campus specific meme pages.

In the past year and a half college meme pages that once flourished and defined campus life have suffered from a lack of content due to remote learning.

Because students missed out on community-building experiences at school, such as attending football games, studying in the library, and seeing the same eccentric characters on campus everyday, meme pages suffered a content drought.

Come mid-August students will head back to their universities after extended time away, but can the campus meme pages be revived?

A brief history of campus meme pages

For those who aren't familiar with campus meme pages and Facebook groups, before the pandemic they were popular at big schools like UC Berkeley and University of Boston, as well as smaller schools like Tuffs and Yale. Students use campus meme pages to bond over the oddities of shared campus life and events. The meme pages also help students distinguish themselves and their universities from other schools.

College meme Facebook groups all follow roughly the same naming pattern, and they also poke fun at school reputations. Some examples include UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens, Yale Memes for Special Snowflake Teens, UCLA Memes for Sick af Tweens, and Harvard Memes for Elitist 1% Tweens.

These pages take advantage of any trending meme format and make it campus specific by referencing a detail about their college and sometimes adding their school's logo, hat, or insignia.

College meme pages have become hugely popular not only with current students, but also alumni and prospective students. UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens, created in late 2016, was the first prominent college meme page. It now has over 200,000 members. Currently, Harvard Memes for Elitist 1% Teens and UCLA Memes for Sick af Tweens both have around 60,000 members.

This meme intentionally confuses two aspects of UC Berkeley campus life, the dance troupes that practice on campus and protests.
This meme intentionally confuses two aspects of UC Berkeley campus life, the dance troupes that practice on campus and protests. Credit: screenshot: Matt Jereza / Facebook

While Facebook college meme pages still exist and are still active they did not have the wealth of campus related content to draw on for the last year and a half. This is further complicated by younger student's preference for apps like TikTok and Instagram over Facebook.

I attended UC Berkeley from 2017 to 2021 and our meme page was a point of campus pride. At such a big campus with many splintering identities, the meme page had a sense of community. It was wonderful to be in on the jokes and feel like we were all in it together.

At such a big campus with many splintering identities, the meme page had a sense of community.

UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens relied on a lot of campus tropes like the pain of walking across Sproul (our plaza where hundreds of clubs would flyer daily) and the confusing layout of certain buildings. The meme pages also provided comedic relief for students. Content on the page was often related to campus-wide current events, like the time protesters burned down an Amazon store in 2017 when Milo Yinnopoulos spoke on campus, or when our annual football game against Stanford was postponed because of wildfire smoke in 2018, and again during power cuts due to high wildfire risk in 2019.

Without those universal experiences to draw from in the 2020-2021 school year, there were fewer campus-wide inside jokes and therefore fewer memes.

The rise of Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens

During the pandemic, a meme page for all college students named Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens blew up in place of campus-specific meme pages. The description of the page reads, "Socially isolated college youth stuck doing online courses in closed universities."

Rachel Wang, a 22-year-old recent UC Berkeley grad and moderator of Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens, noticed a decline in UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens. "Our meme page was the original, right and I feel like their peak was a while back already. I haven't seen many posts from them on my feed. I think having a page just for college students and because of the novelty of lockdown college students were propelled to Zoom Memes," said Wang.

Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens was created March 11, 2020, by two Carnegie Mellon students, MeMehul Agrawal and Shreyan Bakshi. Within the first few days it gained over 100,000 members and now has over 910,000 members. Posts often get up to 50,000 likes.

During the pandemic the college experience became more universal. It didn't matter what college town you were in or what the most confusing building on your campus was because we were all attending classes in our bedrooms and mourning the loss of our college experience. There was a sense of solidarity across campuses in Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens.

An example of the kind of memes posted in Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens.
An example of the kind of memes posted in Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens. Credit: screenshot: zeke sanchez / facebook

Zoom Memes provided David Nheui, a 20-year-old rising sophomore at University of Pennsylvania, with a community during COVID-19. The weekend after Nheui was sent home, the meme page hosted a Zoom call. "We were just playing games, talking, it was really fun. I stayed and got to talk to people and I stayed in contact with the people I met in that call and became friends with them," said Nheui.

"The meme page helped me find and build community during the pandemic. It felt great still being able to connect with other students virtually," added Nheui.

When the admin of Zoom Memes were looking for more moderators, they reached out to Nheui and he happily accepted.

As more people get vaccinated and college campuses plan to open, Wang has seen a drop in content and engagement in the page. "At its peak there would always be like 10K pending posts and now we have nothing or we have like ten really shitty posts," said Wang.

"People still submit memes about college that do really well, but I don't think it will ever be as popular as when it was first formed," added Wang.

The future of campus meme pages

Returning to campus seems like an opportune time for the resurgence of college meme pages, but will they survive?

Isabella Schlaft, a 20-year-old rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania and moderator of their campus meme page, Official Unofficial Penn Squirrel Catching Club, is hopeful and found that even when campus was closed that the meme page created a community at Penn. "It's been enjoyable to see when people unite around something that they find funny or entertaining it makes you feel more connected to other people from campus even if you can't be together in person," said Schlaft.

It may be challenging to sustain college meme pages on Facebook though as younger students are using Instagram for things that were once done in Facebook groups, like finding freshman year roommates. Some campuses, like Penn, have adapted by creating Instagram meme pages. The Instagram account @pennmemes has over 4,000 followers, @upenn.memes has racked up nearly 10,000. But compare that with Official Unofficial Penn Squirell Catching Club Facebook group which has nearly 30,000 members.

However, Instagram accounts don't lend themselves to community building the way Facebook groups do. In a Facebook group anyone can post a meme and you can see who is posting it, while on Instagram meme pages, the account posts every meme and credits the meme creator in the caption.

Between the decline in campus meme pages due to COVID and younger students preference for Instagram, it will be interesting to see if Facebook college meme pages make a comeback this fall. But maybe when students arrive back on campus inspiration will hit and the memes will flow freely.



Source : http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/aDk6rL5mQ28/college-meme-page-facebook-covid

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