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Requiem for a Meme

Arts & Culture | December 10, 2018

In 2016, the Tufts Observer published an article entitled “Me to Me: Write an Article about the Meme Page” that outlined the significance of the Facebook group “Tufts Memes for Quirky Queens” as a way for students to express themselves. Since its introduction into Tufts student life, the page has cultivated a strong presence in student culture, and many have turned to it as a source of authentic information and first impressions of the University—especially incoming first year students.

 

For many of these first years, acceptance into the meme page can feel like a small but significant victory—an initiation into a world unknown. This is a world inherently unique to Tufts culture; jokes on the page can be as specific as a reference to the unsettling automated voice that comes on at 12:44 a.m. in Tisch commanding students to leave before 1:00 a.m.—something only those who have spent time at Tufts understand.

 

First year René Jameson laughed as she recalled her excitement when she first saw the meme page. “Forget committing to the school. I joined the meme page and that’s like—commitment,” she said.

 

The page not only allows a humorous preview into campus culture, it also gives insight into serious issues on campus, including key information that may be missing from the school’s admissions page.

 

Speaking specifically to the the lack of diversity at Tufts, Jameson discussed the dissonance she noticed between the Whiteness she sees on campus and the diversity that Tufts claims to have. “Tufts advertised itself as super diverse,” she said in regards to the admission page. She added that “Tufts is still a step up [in diversity]” when compared to her largely White town “…but it shouldn’t be advertising itself as [diverse].”

 

Jameson found a more authentic representation of race and better understood its impact on student life through the meme page. Take, for example, a picture of toothpaste labeled “Noticeabley White,” meant to describe the Tufts population.

 

“I think it’s cool that the meme page is like, ‘Nope, we’re super White, and we have a lot of White kids, our staff is mostly White,’” she said. “It’s very honest and I appreciate seeing that.”

 

However, Jameson would also like to see Tufts Admissions follow suit. “[Tufts] doesn’t have to be dishonest about it or put up this front that isn’t true,” she said. “I think it would actually be really wonderful if the school were honest about the fact that [Tufts] is a predominantly White institution…it has to take steps to improve .”

 

In addition to revealing important realities, the presence of the page can also ease the transition into campus culture for newer students whose only previous experience with the school may have been Tufts’ website or other admissions materials.

 

First year Georgia Kay noted that the page allows her to feel more connected to a student body that initially seemed overbearingly elite and highbrow. In this way, the page allows for a mending of the disparity between the way Tufts markets itself, and the way the student community actually functions. “It can be so intimidating, especially as a first year,” Kay said. In her perception, Tufts characterizes the student body as only completely academically driven and focused, while the page shows a more honest side of folks who are often “struggling to get things done.” First year Jonathan Zamsky echoed this sentiment, noting that “the Tufts admissions page…make us all seem like scholars,” but in reality many of us are just “tired.”

 

So what do we make of this online community of students coping with the frustration of having a full class enrollment cart, or identifying red flags of a Tufts soft boy by way of Venn diagram, besides seeing it as an outlet for niche humor and helpful insights?

 

One answer is in the page’s informative nature. Specific pop culture references and well-recognized meme formats may create an accessibility that allows students to make light of the  stresses of going to Tufts (see: Tobey Maguire leaving behind his Spiderman costume in tears, just like a student leaving the pre-med track after getting back their first Bio 13 exam grade). Another is the page’s ability to inform the Tufts community about student movements and Tufts community concerns, particularly for first years who may never have been exposed to them before.

 

On November 14, at 10:23 p.m., Mia Lambert, one of the organizers for  , posted a meme that showcased the Rally for a Fair Dining Contract scheduled for that same week. Tufts Dining Action Coalition is an organization that works to advocate for a fair union contract for Tufts dining workers. The meme specifically targeted the potential concern that students may not attend the rally due to inclement weather, or an overload of work. After the meme was posted, interest in the rally’s event page spiked.

 

“People would be liking it…and then hit ‘interested’ in the event…and that’s why it felt really effective,” said Lambert about the meme. The meme even traveled beyond the bounds of the page and was reposted by dining workers on Facebook. “[Dining workers] were really excited about it, and were sharing it,” Lambert added. Though the memes posted about the rally enabled conversation and provoked excitement, Lambert clarified that it should not be considered a replacement for organizing tactics­¾talking to people in person is still the most effective way to get people involved in activism.

 

Still, when used well, the page can be an informative tool for first years and the general student community. Many first years interviewed for this piece mentioned that the meme page was also their first exposure to the Tufts Housing League and the ongoing conversation surrounding In this way, memes can help center student action, and make activism visible and accessible to all members of the student body.

 

Whether by addressing lack of diversity, student activism, or a light-hearted inside joke, the Tufts meme page helps facilitate community. As Jameson put it: “As a freshman, it makes me feel good. Other people are also overwhelmed or concerned about this issue, and making a joke out of it not only raises awareness of it, but also interconnects everybody.”