Photo courtesy of Boston College Memes for Jesuit Tweens / Facebook

The Meaning Behind Meme-ing

Ranking in the top 1% of searches on Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “memes,” as a cultural phenomenon, are equal parts entertaining and perplexing. Defined as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture,” memes have, with the help of social media, taken the Internet by storm.

They filter into our daily lives, typically through social media. However, sometimes the cultural trend piercing today’s social fabric manages to infiltrate friendly folds through the oh-so-antiquated process known as “word of mouth.” Without context, many come across as cryptic and borderline idiotic. One trend punctuating meme-sharing circles everywhere involves editing images so that those their hands visible in the frame appear to be cutting a monkey’s hair, fashioning its locks to accommodate the primate’s acrobatics. Is it puzzling? Yes. Is it funny? Yes. Is it capable of uniting a group of people around a shared image, putting a smile on each viewer’s face? Yes.

In order to adequately appreciate memes, one must stop and think about the current state of affairs in the world. Our news feeds are crowded with upsetting, angering stories everyday with little to break up feeds replete with tragedies. Thus, our generation seeks refuge and happiness in funny images and captions; they are the Peanuts of the twenty-first century.

BC has its own stake in the ever-expanding world of memes. The Facebook page, Boston College Memes for Jesuit Teens, is dedicated to relaying the best and brightest of today’s memes, often including a unique hint of BC in each. Erin Olejnik, MCAS ’18, and Edward Byrne, MCAS ’18, act as administrators of the page, filtering through an endless array of doctored images.

Byrne notes, “As an elite university, I think it's important for students to define the culture of a campus, which we've done through these memes.”

The page's use of niche jokes allows students to create a collective campus identity from which we can reflect on our experiences. The purpose of memes at BC is not solely inside jokes, however.

According to Olejnik, “It is interesting to see how specific memes calling out campus issues gain significant popularity.” She continues, “For example, our university’s lack of an LGBTQ+ resource center has inspired discussions both on campus and online in the form of memes.” Memes go as far as providing students at universities a medium to advocate for change. Boston College is not perfect, and creating and sharing memes allows students to demonstrate support for particular causes, and in turn, make our campus a better place.

In light of recent events at Harvard, where acceptances were rescinded on account of inappropriate meme content, the meme medium has come under fire from some critics. As shameful as those actions were, the identity that these groups foster among students is too important to discredit. We, as Eagles, share a common bond, and it is demonstrated very clearly with each post on the Boston College Memes for Jesuit Teens page. So join the Facebook group, post your own “dank” meme, laugh at the rest, and relish in the culture you are helping shape, along with the change you are working to enact.

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