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What Do You Meme?

Now that the “Sh*t {insert subject} Say” videos have finally dwindled down to a fad, it seems we college students have become obsessed with a new social trend:  the Internet Meme. First coined by Richard Dawkins, the term meme is used to describe “a cultural item transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.” Whatever that means, the memes have been flooding Facebook for weeks, and Berklee’s page has become quite popular.

The memes first originated in Canada at the University of Warerloo by 21-year old Saif Altimimi. Shortly after, Altimimi began creating pages for US schools including University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Oakland University, Harvard, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Altimimi is the CEO of NoteWagon, a site that buys and sells students’ class notes, and initially set up the meme pages for marketing purposes. He is the co-creator of Campus Memes and now owns 80% of the meme pages.

Though Berklee’s meme page was created independently of Altimimi, our memes have gone viral in just a couple of weeks. The page has already received over 3,000 “likes,” and over 5,000 people are “talking about it” on Facebook. By whom the page was created I do not know: its administrators have worked hard to remain anonymous, making an obvious effort to avoid my emails regarding their identities. All that they have told me is that students can submit memes by posting on the Facebook wall or submitting through the Berklee Memes Gmail account.

Judging by the amount of “likes” and “shares,” the most popular memes poke fun at music snobbery, Berklee’s male to female ratio, and the mockery of our infamous security guard, Barbara. While most people find Barbara’s doppelganger, the caustic Roz from Monster’s Inc., to be both hilarious and accurate, some students have responded with a few negative comments:

“Come on, guys. Imagine if you had to tell the same kids all day long to get off the stairs. You would yell too. If you don’t like getting yelled at, don’t stand on the stairs. Simple as that.” – anonymous student

“Barbara cares about your safety and actually miss trying to prevent students with visual impairments and big instruments from tripping on you. I am serious”– anonymous student

Yet the students running the page say they try to filter out the more offensive memes. “I’ve received no negative feedback concerning the page.  Certain meme submissions I’ve re-posted have made a few people upset, but nothing beyond a negative comment on the post. I did get a ‘Scumbag Roger Brown’ meme which I didn’t repost,” said one anonymous administrator.

So why are the memes so wildly popular? Community. People want to feel connected to those around them, they want to feel like they are a part of something they can identify with, and the memes give each school an exclusive identity. It is the ultimate inside joke. And no one knows about community quite like a Berklee student: they don’t call it the “bubble” for nothing.


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