What’s in a meme? Allegheny memes page surges in popularity

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A meme, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." Internet memes generally repurpose images from popular culture by adding humorous captions to give the images new context. Allegheny College Memes and other college memes sites sprouted up in the last few weeks, localizing memes that were already popular throughout the Internet and creating their own. These are the top five memes (by amount of likes) on Allegheny College Memes. Loren Horst (216 likes).
It was last Thursday when senior Loren Horst started the group which would soon take over the news feeds of Allegheny College students. With no class on Friday, Horst logged onto Facebook to alleviate his boredom. He stumbled across posts that his friends had shared from the Millersville University Memes page.

“I checked it out, I laughed, and I decided that we needed that,” said Horst. “It really took an hour, and then it blew up from there.”

At the time of writing, the page had reached almost 15,000 people.

Communication Arts professor Julie Wilson, who teaches a class on digital culture, said that she was surprised localized memes hadn’t hit colleges sooner.

“It’s a way to demonstrate your savviness,” said Wilson. “At the same time, you get the likes, you get the validation that we all wait for when we post things on Facebook.”

Mark Flaherty (161 likes).
Wilson drew an association between the growth of memes and sarcastic cultural personalities such as John Stewart.

“There’s actually a lot of value placed on being snarky,” said Wilson. “It’s a way to say something relevant and novel in order to show your cleverness.”

The most “liked” meme on the page is the first, posted by Horst himself. It features screenshots from “The Lion King.”

“I think that was one of my weaker ones,” Horst said. “But it was so broad and so common that i think people were able to relate to it.”

Senior Jack McCready posted the third most-popular meme on the page, which combines a picture of (Gene Wilder’s) Willy Wonka with a play at the tendency of Pittsburgh natives to brag about their sports teams.

“I thought of Allegheny stereotypes and that was the first one that came to mind,” said McCready.

“The whole meme thing is about being able to make fun of yourself,” said McCready, who is from Pittsburgh. He said the memes page tapped into commonalities between Allegheny students.

Jack McCready (140 likes).
“I think that mostly everyone feels a little bit overworked at Allegheny,” said McCready. “Everyone is willing to make fun of the whole ‘Unusual Combinations’ thing, and everyone is willing to make fun of how awkward people can be on campus.”

Each meme doesn’t necessarily play off of pre-existing Allegheny stereotypes, however. One, featuring Horst himself, came directly out of the group. “Good Intentions Loren” pokes fun at the fact that the memes group took over so many people’s nights on Thursday.

“I forgot to realize that everyone else had class on Friday and that their weekend wasn’t beginning already,” said Horst.

Zach Frink (126 likes).
Interest in the page fell dramatically over the weekend, from 2,163 unique visitors on Friday to 839 on Sunday.

“I figured… it would last two or three days and then die out, which it pretty much did,” said Horst.

Zach Frink (128 likes).
But he also expressed hope that people would continue to post on the page into the future as ideas came along.

“I’m a senior, I’m trying to leave a legacy, and what’s more important than something that’s popular on the Internet?”