February 28, 2012

‘Memes,’ Latest Internet Trend, Catches Fire at Cornell

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For the past three weeks, Cornell students’ Facebook pages have been seemingly suddenly bombarded by memes, an Internet phenomenon in which humorous text is overlayed on an image.

Memes, long known as a nationwide phenomenon, have taken a twist of their own at Cornell, where they are known as “Cornell Memes.” As of Tuesday night, 4,845 Facebook users “liked” a Facebook page created Feb. 7 devoted to memes about life at Cornell, which includes jabs at campus leaders, jokes about prelims and rants about Ithaca’s isolated location.

One meme enthusiast, Daniel Ortega ’15, called the new trend an “Internet inside joke,” while Eric May ’15 described them as “not just one image … [but] a bunch of different images that mean different things.”

Memes, May said, are just the latest Internet phenomenon to skyrocket in popularity overnight.

“It’s like a new viral video,” May said. “Certain images become very popular.”

In fact, May, who created a meme of his own, experienced firsthand how fast the images spread online.

“Six-panel memes got popular a couple of weeks ago; I hadn’t seen any on [Cornell’s page], so I decided to post one,” he said. “An hour into it, there were already a few hundred likes. Facebook stopped counting likes and only counted shares.”

May’s meme spread far beyond the Cornell sphere, even reaching a “good friend” whose boss sent him the picture.

“It is cool to see that they [reach] people so outside my circle of friends,” May said. “I’d love for it to get as popular as it can be.”

The Cornell Memes Facebook page is meant to host memes that all students can relate to, May said.

“General memes are more based on society — those are intended to become super-popularized and just blown up. The Cornell memes are intended for Cornell students,” May said. “It’s a great way to make social comments on a subject that you are comfortable with.”

Echoing May, several students said they enjoy the Cornell-specific jokes on Cornell Memes.

“I had no idea until like two weeks ago when I saw them on my news feed. They say things that apply to everyone here,” Rachel Nedsker ’15 said.

Nedsker explained that as memes became popular on Facebook, more and more people began to visit the Cornell Memes page.

Shelby Raquito ’15 said she browses the page “too often now.”

Another Cornell Memes visitor, Katherine Satterfield ’13 — who said she has been hooked on memes for more than a year — was inspired to begin creating memes of her own after seeing Cornell’s page.

“It takes some wit,” she said.

While the trend has proliferated around campus, where students browsing computers in libraries have been sharing their favorite images with friends, Ortega said that memes have not always been so popular or well-known among Cornell students.

“If I showed you a meme picture five years ago, you wouldn’t think it was funny, but as that meme develops, everyone learns what it means,” Ortega said.

In fact, May said, as memes gained popularity nationwide, students who had been making memes and posting them on sites such as 4chan.com and lolcats.com began to create Cornell-specific memes.

“I’ve been following them online since the start of the year … Now that it has been more popular, I started posting more about Cornell,” May said.

Although students are still chuckling over the best of Cornell Memes, the images, like any other overnight Internet phenomena, may already be on the decline. “I think people that are posting the really good memes are getting tired of it,” Satterfield said.

Original Author: Erica Augenstein