To meme or not to meme: what it means to meme for you and me

By
April 10, 2012

From left to right: Foul Bachelor Frog, Troll Face, a LOLCAT, Good (Nice) Guy Greg, recording artist Drake as YOLO, Rageguy, and Time of the Month Tiger. Photo illustration by Bridget Stagnitto.

Mills College sophomore Rose Lopez was walking through San Leandro High School, where she tutors students for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, when she noticed a student government election poster.

The poster read, “Vote for me because YOLO.” It also featured a cartoon face with a giant, mischievous grin, that she had never seen before.

Later, she asked a friend what the face and “YOLO” meant.

They were internet memes (though often pronounced phonetically by internet newbies, it is pronounced as “MEEM”) — words and images that have created traction on the internet.

What Lopez saw in that campaign poster was a common image on websites such as 4chan and Reddit: the “troll face.” The troll face is used when people deceive others or play pranks on each other, also referred to as “trolling” on the internet.

“YOLO” is one of the latest internet memes and stands for, “You only live once.” Its beginnings as a meme started as a hashtag on Twitter, after recording artist Drake had recorded a song called “The Motto” and featured the acronym, according to the website Know Your Meme, a database of all known memes.

Previously, widespread internet phenomena were described as “viral” images, videos, and stories. Though there is no known exact date, “viral” phenomena evolved into memes within at least the last five years, according to internet “scholars.” Because many websites and discussion pages can get lost in the abyss of the internet or be deleted, many internet users claim that they began the first memes. Often times, the dates conflict and “scholars” constantly debate on the beginnings of memes.

Websites such as 4chan, 9gag, and Reddit are often where memes originate. Popular memes that found fame on 4chan are the Rageguy and the comic it originated from, Ragetoons.

“The name Rageguy refers to the main character of a series of crudely-drawn comics typically consisting of four panes, portraying situations which can bring rage and exasperation, with the main character screaming with anger as a result,” Know Your Meme explained.

Social networking websites, such as Tumblr and Twitter, tend to be where the memes gain notoriety. There are different accounts on the social media sites dedicated to posting only memes.

On the Mills campus, several memes are popular.

Sophomore Liz Newman said Foul Bachelor Frog is one of her favorite memes. Junior Kirsten Taylor-Klink said that Time of the Month Tiger is her favorite. Both memes are macro images, which are images with superimposed text in the Impact font.

The Foul Bachelor Frog memes “often depict lazy, disgusting and hedonistic behaviors associated with single men,” according to Know Your Meme. The database also describes Time of the Month Tiger as a meme “that [expresses] the monthly horror that
is menstruation.”

The connection between the internet and animals is something that has been around since the beginning of viral phenomena. Cat videos took the internet by storm, such as the Keyboard Cat, which is a cat playing the same three notes repeatedly on a keyboard.

The website I Can Has Cheezburger? features a common meme: the LOLCAT. The LOLCAT is a macro image that features every day cats going about their lives with a caption superimposed in Impact font.

On The Campanil’s Facebook page, Alexa Pagonas wrote about a cat meme created by an alumna.

“My favorite is an unofficial one from Mills Alumnae, Heather Archuletta, Mills class of 1991, titled, ‘For no particular reason, here is X wearing a cat’,” Pagonas said. “And X is always a celebrity — from all different eras.”

In spite of her own meme, Archuletta’s meme of choice has nothing to do with cats.

“Oddly, however, my favorite internet meme has nothing to do with cats or their amusing mis-spellings,” Archuletta wrote on The Campanil’s Facebook page. “I love the ‘Demotivational Posters,’” referring to the popular posters with an ironic twist.

Memes have a way of standing out in the crowd. As Lopez observed at San Leandro High, the meme posters were more eye catching than the giant poster boards from other students.

“It was more understated,” Lopez said. “There were all these poster boards with glitter, but the meme posters were just on computer paper. It stood out more because it wasn’t gaudy like the poster boards and it was simple.”

And as the student who used memes for her election posters? She won the election for junior class president.


To meme or not to meme: what it means to meme for you and me was published on April 10, 2012 in Features

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  • http://twitter.com/Pillownaut Heather Archuletta

    Wonderful examination of popular memes! They have become such an engaging part of our cultural landscape — although I have to say, I feel sorry for “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy” because a meme seems to have turned his life upside down. Perhaps cats and joke-phrases are safer 😉  Power to the meme!