University of LOLz: Digging for the roots of college memes

Mark Zuckerberg comments on Stanford meme

Now that the two month excitement period has passed and the “Sh*t [insert relatable target market] Say” fanaticism is dying down, you might have taken notice of the meme deluge (I’m not talking about Jeremy Lin here) flooding your Facebook News Feed. Nearly overnight, the existence of memes has gone viral.

I’m admittedly at a loss. On one hand, I’m compelled to suggest to former classmates and co-workers, partaking in quintessential Reddit-like behavior, to turn their effort to Reddit. On the other, I’m not sure if I feel so comfortable with my work acquaintances stumbling on the world of /r/atheism and ironically the inescapable NSFW images dotting the front page. But I must admit that it’s a peculiar sight to be witnessing your baby boomer professors creating and commenting on memes at the expense of your alma mater.

It starts with a niche

he's from reddit watch out guys meme

Niche groups have succeeded in enabling individuals to congregate around similar interests, thereby increasing the likelihood for engagement. Reddit.com and its predecessor, 4Chan.org, capitalized on these groups with subreddits and boards, wherein indulgences of interests and hobbies with other like-minded users was encouraged. For people with niche interests, the company of another individual out in the Interweb that would understand your quirks is worth treasuring.

In the same way, each university is made up of a niche community toting its own campus vernacular. A Badger alumni, like myself, would be scratching their heads as to why 235 people would upvote a “Boston Bulldog” meme stating, “Forgot your BU ID?… You no longer exist.” In the same regard, I wouldn’t expect anyone outside of the Wisconsin universities to understand a “Lazy College Senior” meme brandishing the quip, “Bascom Hill?… Better take the 80.” When I read that, I had a sudden urge to build a ski lift outlining Bascom Hill, but of course you wouldn’t understand.

Short of the engagement rate that George Takei’s epic Facebook page consistently garners, university meme pages consistently see high engagement ratios. The University of Michigan’s “UMich Memes” has 7,691 “Likes” with 7,995 individuals talking about the page. “Purdue University Memes” has 4,337 “Likes” with 4,267 Facebook users talking about the page. After some digging, I can confidently say that the ratio of engagement across the board (among universities) are similar and consistent.

The explosive growth of these unsanctioned university Facebook pages is evidence enough that students and alumni are getting a kick out of what is officially recognized by Knowyourmemes as a meme in itself: “Facebook University Meme Pages.” It makes you wonder if sardonic humor is social media marketing gold.

Where did university memes suddenly come from?

Saif Altimimi, a University of Guelph alumnus and CEO of Notewagon.com, has taken to the spotlight to credit himself with dispersing the contagious interest in memes.

Altimimi was reported to have begun the creation of such pages at the University of Waterloo and University of Guelph. He then worked his way to the U.S., convincing students and friends at the University of Michigan and Boston University to create their own university pages. But it doesn’t end there. Altimimi revealed to StartupStats that he owns 80 percent of the meme pages on Facebook. It’s not hard to put two and two together to discern that his efforts were a marketing ploy for either Notewagon or for his February 9 launch of CampusMemes.com.

The university meme page is not a new concept. While Altimimi’s pages began in January, there are a handful of university meme pages that predate his. In particular, “The FIU Meme Generators” were founded on October 1, 2011, and “McGill Memes” proceeded as a Tumblr blog on November 6, 2011.

But, while I have to give credit where it’s due to Altimimi, I’m inclined to believe that it was McGill student Daniel Braden who kindled the zeal.

When I approached Braden under the assumption that his was the first to create the Facebook University Meme Page, he was initially unaware of FIU’s pre-dated presence but later clued me in during our second correspondence. “I did come up with the idea to create a university memes page independent of having seen FIU’s, and I firmly believe that my site was the first such site in Canada and possibly the second worldwide,” Braden assured me. “I’m also fairly confident, that my site was the primary catalyst in spreading the university meme craze in Canada and the United States.” He directed me to University de Montreal’s meme website [French], crediting McGill Memes as the inspiration for the site.

“I’m fairly certain that some friends of mine in North Carolina saw my Tumblr and started their own university meme Facebook pages shortly after, as Appalachian State University’s meme page dates back to December 5th, 2011, and I know that many of the Quebec university pages took inspiration from McGill Memes and UdeMontreal Memes (which came shortly after Christmas),” Braden revealed.

After witnessing that there was no shortage of McGill complaints courtesy of @McGillProblems and the now-defunct @MissNewRez, McGill Memes began as a Tumblr page in November. The blog spread virally throughout Canada, garnering 230,000 page views since. Then at the behest of University de Montreal’s meme page founder, Anne-Marie Provost, Braden opened McGill Meme’s Facebook page on January 11, 2012 – exactly two weeks before Altimimi created the first university page in Ontario.

But despite who between them is responsible for the latest viral hit, one thing is certain. While memes have shot into the spotlight, not all of the university meme participants are frequenters of Reddit, 4Chan or even 9Gag. It’s sometimes cringe worthy when late adopters decide to jump onto the bandwagon.

Case in point:

This is how you don't create the Annoying Facebook Girl meme

and…

Wrong use of the socially awkward penguin meme

However long this meme keeps up, at the least, Mark Zuckerberg seems to be enjoying this new-found hit.

If you’ve uncovered inaccurately generated memes from your alma mater that compelled you to LOL, share them with us in the comments below.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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