By Evan Tarantino
Despite its terrifying ability to render us helplessly socially exposed, the Internet is a fluid breeding ground for monumentality. Welcoming both the optimistically serious and the confidently inane, it has thrown the idea of cultural limitation to the dogs. Expression, creativity, and communication know no bounds and are thus able to exert their full and true potentials. The World Wide Web reaches so far beneath the tip of the cultural iceberg that we are often able to find exactly what we were looking for—and then some.
Comedy is undoubtedly one of the cultural mediums most influenced by the web. Because comedy’s success relies on mass proliferation, the Internet could not be a more perfect partner. As a result of this dream team-up, comedic accessibility and relatability are able to effectively breach most societal divides. For example, a child in Beijing can be amused by something that his American counterpart enjoyed only seconds earlier. This unparalleled potential for shared understanding, coupled with the inevitable waning of our generation’s comedic attention span, has spawned a simplistic yet brilliant form of humor: the meme.
Made up of a few simple words and a picture of predisposed meaning, memes are a birthchild of our time: the Internet’s Golden Age. Richard Dawkins first coined the term in his book The Selfish Gene, published in 1976. It was not until the early 2000s, however, that memes assumed their rightful place in the Internet’s comedic hierarchy. From Scumbag Steve to Success Kid, they have become an almost universal standard of comedy.
One of the defining qualities of the meme is its adaptability to specific groups and associations. As college students represent one of the leading demographics for Internet usage, universities have become a hotbed for meme creation and proliferation. Over the past couple months, college-specific memes have been popping up at leading institutions around the world. Seeing as many consider Tufts a pinnacle of liberal education, it was inevitable that memes would find their way into the heart of Jumboland.
Enter Tufts Memes. Founded on a cold, listless Medford night in the first week of February, the site charted over a thousand hits in the first 24 hours. “It was honestly just a response to the growing trend,” the creators (who have decided to remain anonymous) claimed in a brief interview. “If we hadn’t started it, someone else would have.”
Kicking off with a few gems from the founders themselves, the voices of the community soon became more than willing to share their comedic wit. Since posting is (and will always remain) public, creative availability keeps the page in a fresh state of constant evolution. Nevertheless, content decisions are hardly democratic. Posts are monitored daily by the creators, and memes that do not receive a specified amount of attention (likes, to be more Facebook-savvy) are deleted without mercy. The cream of the crop, however, receives rather humbling treatment. Those memes that reach far and beyond average expectations of humor are placed in the “Best Memes” album and have thus become inherent features of the page. According to one of the site’s architects, a sophomore international student from Paris, “People were asking for a way to filter out the good from the bad, so we responded accordingly.”
Even our new head honcho put in his two cents less than a day after the launch. After witnessing a playful meme suggesting that his name resembled that of a mobster, President Monaco replied rather enthusiastically “Something tells me that I am going to have to get used to Tufts Memes!” Such informal, agreeable dialogue is indicative of the incredible communicative power of technology. Moreover, it suggests a potential that is wholly motivating. We live in an age where the simplest of creations can bridge the gap between not only between generations but also within conventional hierarchies.
For those of us who are merely spectators of the exponential evolution of the web, it is undoubtedly as daunting as it is inspiring. The staggering amount of information, both private and public, is more than overwhelming. Nevertheless, we must maintain our faith in those mediums that allow us to share and express ourselves. Memes are merely stepping stones towards a limitless cultural revolution, one that will transform the very essence of global culture.