There are many essentials to the freshman experience, but the newest addition to the crop of college stereotypes can be found on social media. College meme accounts fill Instagram, and yet Boston University has little to none. While this may not seem like a worthwhile hill to die on, memes provide a necessary sense of unity BU may arguably lack. Amongst our huge student population, homemade meme accounts would provide not only a means of relatability, but the warm morale booster the cold Boston winters demand.
Last year was my freshman year at BU, and the few meme accounts I came across have now fallen dormant. The most notable was @BU.affirmations, which garnered a following of 3,100 students before its final post on Jan. 29. Lesser known with a nicher aesthetic, @ihatewarrentowers, was another popular account that met a sudden end after a final post on March 16.
@Barstoolbu, a direct affiliate of Barstool Sports, is a major account that’s still active, and Barstool runs similar accounts for most major universities. However its corporate ownership lacks the ingenuity the previously mentioned accounts offered. Rather than a traditional meme account Barstoolbu mainly features repostings of photos and videos from students, rather than specially created jokes.
So how exactly does an image with overlaid text foster community? When you’re able to enjoy a meme that comes across your feed, you’re suddenly a part of an inside joke. All memes require some extent of cultural context to be enjoyed. Meme pages cater to differentiating degrees of niches. BU.affirmations, for example, appealed to Boston University at large. It’s likely that any joke you laughed at from their page couldn’t be shared with friends that don’t attend the school.
Being “in” on the joke is where a community is created. You feel a sense of pride when you “get” the meme, and may feel closer to those that also understand. This is important for a school like BU. Having such a large student body may make it harder to feel like you’re a part of the BU community.
Everyone here is pursuing different majors, and there’s just a few school-wide events. I’ve found identifying with BU as a whole can feel nearly impossible. Universal signifiers like memes can remind you that all the people you pass on the street are your peers, they’re in on the joke, same as you.
Another aspect of the homemade meme page that evokes a sense of unity? They’re run by your friends. Memes forced on consumers by large corporations often feel off or out of touch. Firstly, accounts run by your fellow students read as genuine — they are often anonymous because there’s little the person on the other side has to gain besides offering an opportunity for people to laugh.
The space may also feel like a level playing field for all to share their opinions and develop the original gag further through comments. School meme accounts may allow students to submit their own photos, jokes or general experiences. Not only are you enjoying a classmate’s content but their spotlighting you at the same time.
And finally, a personal theory of mine, the aforementioned anonymity of school meme pages aids in the communal experience. It’s the “Radio Rebel” effect of it all. “Radio Rebel” is a 2012 Disney Channel Original movie where shy girl Debby Ryan secretly runs a famous radio show where she advocates for the students of her school to embrace individuality. The student body’s persistent curiosity of her identity only fed into her fame.
The more followers an account has, the more the mystery grows. The unknown meme page user, the promise of the face reveal after they hit a certain follower count, feeds natural human curiosity. There’s no telling who the wizard behind the curtain truly is, but guessing with friends makes it all the more fun.
Despite the extensive evidence in favor of BU meme pages, when the world needed them most, they vanished. Hopefully a new school year will encourage old users to resurrect dead pages, or inspire the social media managers of tomorrow to get their start today. Boston University won’t feel whole without a dedicated meme page. If you’re funny and socially savvy, perhaps you’ll be the hero BU needs to save the day.