Imagine a bingo board. The grid is filled with phrases like “taking the extra meat sticker off your Hodgdon burrito in the drinks corner,” “FREE SPACE is dead at Tufts,” and “Timely warning, Breaking and Entering Near Medford/Somerville Campus.” The phrases are written in brown and blue Comic Sans, and the “O” at the top of the last column has been changed to say “BO’S.” This meme would not be popular or even understood anywhere besides Tufts, but that doesn’t matter. It currently has over 800 likes in the Facebook group titled “Tufts Memes for Quirky Queens” (TMFQQ).
One night this semester, first-years Leo Mandani, Mary Kate Kelley, and Peter Lam were looking at meme pages from schools across the country. Mandani, a resident of California, had seen pages from UC Berkeley, Stanford, and UCLA, and bemoaned the fact that no similar spaces existed at Tufts where students and alumni could post original content.
“At late night Carm, I was scrolling through [Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens] and asked Mary Kate why we didn’t have a page like that. And on the spot we came up with the name and MK made the page on her phone,” Mandani said.
And so, Tufts Memes for Quirky Queens was born. Mandani, Kelley, and Lam are the three administrators of the page, but they also added five moderators—mostly their friends—that assist in curating content and allowing users to join the group. However, the admins and mods have mostly been taking a hands-off approach.
“At first we just accepted anyone that requested to join into the group, but a couple people messaged us suggesting that we restrict it to only Tufts students and alumni,” Lam said. “Other than that, we haven’t really been heavily moderating the page aside from deleting anything non-Tufts related.”
The group description outlines a few loose rules: add your friends, be nice, and post original content if possible. The page currently has over 4,500 members, the majority of whom are Tufts students. Unlike YikYak, where posts are anonymous, or Twitter and Instagram, where people only follow whom they want to follow, TMFQQ encompasses a large proportion of the student body.
Almost any Tufts-related content is fair game. Common topics include Tony Monaco, pros and cons of different majors, the state of Greek life, and the ever-present Carm vs. Dewick debate. Several memes depict tropes of the Tufts community, such as IR majors trying to pass as Fletcher students in Ginn Library, SMFA students taking the unreliable shuttle, or ex-members of Greek life writing op-eds.
Nearly everyone interviewed for this article talked about how Tufts Memes for Quirky Queens is a unifying group where students can relate to one another about campus-specific experiences, many of which center around differing levels of privilege on campus. A common point of discussion on the page is the prevalence of Canada Goose jackets. A parka that is more expensive than a month’s worth of rent is an easy target, but other memes delve deeper into issues of class, race, and gender.
In this way, there exists a point where relatability comes to a halt. On February 15, sophomore Conrad Young posted a screenshot of the email notification for the Financial Aid application deadline with a reaction image of Gavin, a kid made famous by Vine in the summer of 2016. The caption reads “60% of you can’t relate,” and the post received over 300 likes. This references the 57 percent of Tufts students who did not receive grants or scholarship aid during the 2014-2015 school year. Young’s meme not only comments on the difficulties of navigating financial aid at Tufts, but it also directly calls attention to the majority of the student body who do not receive aid and literally “can’t relate.”
In a similar vein, junior Chris Paulino posted a screenshot from NBC’s The Office showing Dwight Schrute, a White man, saying “White people, right?” to Kelly Kapoor, a woman of color. The caption reads, “white students posting in this group like.” Paulino’s meme takes issue with the White members of the group criticizing Whiteness in an attempt to relate to people of color. He explained that when memes created by Black people use African-American Vernacular English and become popular, eventually White people consume and reproduce these memes without truly understanding them. The meme, as a format, thrives because it has no boundaries, but this aspect of the Internet phenomenon has its limits. “Like, Anyone Can Meme™,” Paulino said. “But maybe Not Everyone Should Meme Everything.”
Aidan Huntington, a sophomore SMFA dual degree student, said he feels uncomfortable when it’s difficult to tell if a meme is embracing something or making fun of it, like with Greek life or protests. “Recently a few memes about the Charlie Baker protest were posted, some were positive and some were negative, and they were both deleted by mods.” Huntington thought that posts were deleted because the moderators didn’t want them to create tensions. “It’s designed to be a space for non-contentious memes for the most part.”
According to the admins, conflict is rare. Mandani explained that there have been one or two incidences where posts have crossed the line. “[The] only issues have been with posts targeting specific students and the admins/mods not seeing it fast enough to delete early. But other than that, so far everything has run smoothly.”
Kelley expressed a similar sentiment. “We haven’t had any serious issues arise. One person was concerned with who was getting approved into the group so we changed it to where everyone who wants to join needs admin/mod approval, which was good thinking considering how big of a group we were becoming.”
Contentious memes are few and far between: most are much less political in nature than Young’s or Paulino’s, and it seems that many students like that about the page. Junior Adam Kercheval said, “Tufts students are pretty political wherever they go, but I also think that there’s a tacit agreement on meme pages not to take anything too personally. We should all be able to laugh at ourselves and at everything else that goes on around here, and I can’t imagine anyone would go on a meme page, of all places, to attempt to push a political agenda.”
Junior Tom Jasionowski compared TMFQQ to other meme pages like Post Aesthetics, which once had 40,000 members before it was deleted in the summer of 2016. “I’ve been involved in a lot of meme pages and usually in their infancy, everything is pure and nice and true. Eventually, though, there becomes a lot of in-fighting.” Jasionowski believes that avoiding conflict between moderators and general members of the group is key in generating positive and entertaining content. “If it can do that, it won’t end up like the wasteland that is Post Aesthetics.”
The unpredictable nature of Internet trends does not provide an easy road map to tell us where the page will go from here. The creators never expected it to grow to its current size, but they are not worried. “As it stands right now,” Leo Mandani said. “It’s just a mediocre college meme page. I’m glad it got popular on campus because it means more memes and more content.”
One of the most liked posts in TMFQQ is a screenshot from the Nickelodeon cartoon Spongebob Squarepants. It shows two stills of Patrick Star with white text overlaid on the top and bottom reading “Make up your mind- Do we know each other!?? Or do we not know each other!??” Posted on February 16, this meme captures the frustration felt “when you pass by people on campus and they’re inconsistent with saying hi,” as the caption reads. It has 822 likes. If this is the most popular meme in the group, what does this say about the Tufts community? Is it easier to communicate with people online than it is when walking across campus? TMFQQ offers no solid answers, but for now, post on.