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Texas A&Memes: Internet Culture on Campus

Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07


In the Beginning…

Memes have existed for as long as the Internet. Indeed, the two seem mutually inclusive. Even the idea and nomenclature of memes developed out of necessity to describe the phenomena occurring online.

The Internet begat a community, which populated a forum or message board, or IRC chartroom. From there, that community developed a shared culture and exchange of ideas. Perhaps a certain image, hyperlink, or phrase kept cropping up in conversation.

Perhaps that item occurred so frequently as to adopt a singular, yet encompassing meaning of its own that could be applied to a plethora of social situations to cleanly and deliberately express an idea that the entire community would recognize immediately.

Perhaps that's how the first meme was born.

Judging by what constitutes as memes today, I'm inclined to think a particularly funny image rose to the vaunted echelons of memehood first. A cat, most likely, in a funny pose with white text above his head bemoaning his comical situation.

Today, though, a plethora of memes have wriggled their way out of the Internet's spawning pools. Generally, one can turn to the popular image boards 4Chan, Reddit, 9GAG, etc. for proof of pedigree (READERS BEWARE: most of these sights contain explicit and worse material that could scar your precious retinas for time eternal), though don't expect their patronage to extend far past conception and birth.

Memes are, foremost amongst so much else, polarizing. Subcultures and groups can be identified by their love or hate of a certain meme, or denial altogether of one's existence.

Strangely enough, most memes can survive only so long on the imageboard of its birth before the community shoves the fledgling out of the nest with nary a farewell wave. From there, it depends on intrepid aggregators and trolls for spreading the meme to the digital winds where it will take root on other boards and begin life anew.

It's a beautiful, strangely organic, ritual, one that used to take place in specific areas on the net. Increasingly, though, popular media is delving into the Internet's multitude of cultures, subculture, and counter-cultures.

The Leap

News officials, our parents, and the naïve are viewing memes and the language of the net as it leaks through artificial synapses and begins to crop up in the most innocent of places.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr long held pockets of this culture, but the general public forced it down using a collective sense of ignorance. Most passed it all of as fads, the indulgences of children and the obscene.

But what happens when larger institutions create a vibrant, working petri dish for Internet culture to feast on? How prepared are "normal" people to behold and harness such a resource?

Colleges are now finding out the answers to these questions. On Facebook, pages are cropping up everywhere boasting university specific memes in large quantities.

Users can use blank templates found commonly online through sites like KnowYourMeme or MemeBase, and supplant local quips and idiosyncrasies. Commentary ranges from public transport, student cliques and professors to the weather and notable buildings.

This is nothing spectacular. Meme templates have existed for a looooooong time now, and specific areas of trolling constitute a fair amount of total content. What intrigues me the most is the sort of people being exposed to Internet memes and, even more audacious, creating their own for peer review.

Texas A&M's own manifestation, named Texas A&Memes in a stroke of pure brilliance, has seen contributions by all manner of students. A biomed student takes a crack at Trolldad. Slowbro makes a statement about the athletics department. A sorority girl posts her "very first meme" a la Forever Alone.

Spreading Its Wings

Am I wrong to feel excited by this aggregating of heretofore taboo knowledge embraced wholly by those groups who carry hipness and cool-itude like holy mantles?

Maybe its satisfaction to see this culture move towards the mainstream after so many years hiding under the expansive rock of anonymity, pissing off "oldags" everywhere as the objects of their scorn contort their weapons for personal amusement.

Of course, it's easy to pass this off as fad as well, but one would do well to remember how often those words are posited at the effects of youths. Rock music was a fad. Video games were a fad. The entire bloody Internet was supposed to be a fad.

Many of you may find nothing even slightly intriguing about a development like Texas A&Memes, but lend it a bit of credence before your interest completely drains away.

The Internet is evolving well past any of its creator's initial dreams. Whole, autonomous groups and societies are birthed and killed within the limitless bounds of its knowledge pools, and now some of that is oozing its way towards notoriety or perhaps even history.

Like the primordial fish-mutant who decided he was sick of water and wanted to breath fresh air, memes are maturing and testing their lungs. Keep watch, students. We could see Rageface on the cover of Times magazine soon, or Rick Santorum sporting a Trollface in the latest Mitt Romney muckrake.

Chase Carter is a senior English major and a prospector of gold in the river of life. 


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