T his strange world of memes which we currently find ourselves in – one where a president can be catapulted to the White House with the help of online fascists and Pepe the Frog – is terrifying. There was an undercurrent of darkness in the memes that defined 2016: we celebrated Harambe’s death as if he were a messiah, exposed our inner self through evil Kermit, and philosophised over the trolley problem. It wouldn’t be until the end of the year that the dankness would finally return.
What started as a simple meme page in Cambridge (Memebridge) has quickly exploded into a national ecosystem of university meme pages each with thousands of followers. University memes are by no means a new phenomenon (the original Imperial Memes page has nearly 5000 likes) but this new crop of pages has succeeded in a different way, thriving on interuniversity rivalry and collaboration.
This rivalry was the catalyst for the growth of the university meme scene. Soon after Memebridge was created a group of Oxford students started their own page, Oxmeme. The long-term success of memes has always come down to the way in which they are reused and replicated. So naturally it wasn’t long before Oxmeme decided to steal Memebridge’s memes, a deadly sin in the online community. The war had begun.
As if one page wasn’t enough, a second page was born from the English-speaking world’s oldest university: The Memeing Spires of Oxford. As more and more rival pages appeared, the variety of Memebridge’s memes grew. Durhameme proved the perfect target with their attempt at introducing “Doxbridge” to the national lexicon, resulting in a number of humiliating ‘roasts.’ Thousands were liking and tagging their friends in the varsity meme wars but nothing had prepared them for what would come next.
On the 14th of December, Memebridge (“Sent by Alfred”) shared a video which would shake the university meme world to its core. Poking fun at Memeing Spires, Oxmeme and Durhameme, “the bane video” set the bar for what a meme page could do and is essential viewing for any university meme connoisseur.
In the same week, a whole new frontier of the university meme conflict emerged. At least half a dozen new pages were created: Memechester, Birmemeham, Memes College London (King’s), Exememe, Royal Memeoway, and of course, our favourite, Memeperial. While each of these pages has their own set of admins and running jokes, they all share a dislike of Oxmeme for no particular reason.
Memeperial currently has over 4000 likes, nearly 300 more than felix’s own Facebook page, and it’s gained that in a much shorter time. Writing for Cambridge’s Varsity, Elizabeth Howcroft discussed whether Memebridge had become the new student voice of Cambridge, a place where students could freely share their feelings of existential dread that reappear during every exam period. Memeperial is similar to other pages in that it focuses on what makes life at Imperial bad; the dreaded ‘Imperial ratio’ is one of many recurring themes. The page is good at poking fun of the more trivial things that make our life at Imperial miserable and maybe that’s enough to qualify as the voice of Imperial students. felix, which so many of us hold in high esteem, could certainly do more to make students feel like they are part of a community of students who share the same struggles. Despite Memeperial’s success, it is unlikely to sustain itself in the long-term. You only have to look at Imperial Memes and Imperial College Secrets, two pages which now lie dormant, to see that meme pages can be short lived. We can only hope that Memeperial and the rest of the new pages on the meme scene don’t suffer the same fate.