Ralph Nguyen ’12 started the Stanford Meme Facebook page at 2 a.m. Wednesday. A few hours later, the page had one hundred “likes.“ By 5 p.m., 15 hours after it began, the page had more than 1,000 likes and most Stanford students’ Facebook pages were littered with friend’s reposting and liking the images.
The memes poke fun at various stereotypes and aspects of Stanford life, often referencing popular inside jokes or Stanford-specific phenomena. Originally popular primarily on Internet message boards such as Reddit and 4chan, memes have increasingly leaked into mainstream social sites, and in recent months have become more commonplace on Facebook.
While Nguyen has been receiving calls from friends congratulating him, he said he is more surprised by calls from potential investors.
“It’s kinda like a fucked-up version of a start-up,” Nguyen said. “Kids are showing their parents, parents do the whole investment thing, and now they’re giving me calls.”
University meme pages mark a significant shift to a hyper-local form of this type of comedy and satire, narrowing the memes’ audience and often playing on issues much more personal or unique.
This is by no means a Stanford-specific phenomenon-many students at other universities have started pages in recent days and weeks. Discussions on Reddit serve as forums for the more sophisticated to complain about people misusing memes on Facebook pages.
The response to the Stanford meme page has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. Near the end of Wednesday, dozens of new memes were being posted every hour with topics ranging from head football coach David Shaw (“Has best QB in country: field goal”) to University President John Hennessy (“Raises $4.3 billion: announces 3% tuition hike same day.”) Many of the memes sport hundreds of likes and dozens of shares, the type of social engagement any corporation would drool over.
“I’ve used the Internet for these types of purposes for several years now and worked this summer as a viral consultant, but to take initiative and have your own stuff blow-up is really liberating,” Nguyen said.
Several of the memes play off of potentially offensive stereotypes, such as an always-disappointed Asian father who has trouble understanding English (“CS106B teach you C++? Why CS106A no teach you A++?”). While several complaints have been voiced on the Facebook page, so far responses have mostly been complimentary.
Many of the memes serve as interesting and unique insights into aspects of life at Stanford not always vocalized by students. One student suggested Nguyen make an account on the popular micro-blogging site Tumblr to gather all the pictures in the same place (which they later did), and Nguyen has been contacted about putting all the pictures on Pinterest, a popular photo-blogging site.
Nguyen has reached out to several of his internet-savvy friends to help him handle the page. Shane Savitsky ’12 (a Daily staffer) and Kazuma Gunning ’12 are helping create memes and set up the Twitter and Tumblr accounts.
It’s been a good year for Nguyen so far. His “Shit College Freshmen Say” video garnered more than one million views on YouTube, and his comedy channel “JustCallMeMrRight” is the No. 1 viewed channel in the “Comedians” category this month.
While making money from this endeavor might be difficult, Nguyen has other concerns, as well. When asked whether the popularity has changed his life, Nguyen shrugged and smiled.
“Love life is still terrible,” he said. As one of the Stanford memes that twists Boromir’s famous quote in Lord of the Rings pointed out, “One does not simply date at Stanford.”