meme (n.): It’s not a word, it’s a lifestyle.
— Urban Dictionary
As my fellow frequenters of Stanford Memes for Edgy Trees could probably attest to, memes are an interesting part of college culture. These memes vary greatly: They range from simple, surface-level memes about Cal, sports games or campus events, to more moderate memes about wholesome friendship memes or politics, to somewhat darker memes about stress, depression or GPA. These darker memes can touch on far more serious subjects while still maintaining their humorous front. These are the memes that are much more indicative of the fact that Stanford isn’t just a “palm tree paradise” (a quotation from this year’s “Gaieties”).
In a way, it’s amazing how memes let us joke about things that are much harder to slip into normal conversation. How much easier is it to post some generic funny picture with the caption “midterms got me like” than it is to seriously tell a friend or classmate, “I’m not feeling too good about my midterms, and I’m seriously worried about my GPA”? Even if that discussion manages to migrate from Facebook to real life, it’s often shared as a joke or a meme, meaning memes help communicate difficult subjects online and offline.
However, passing off hardships as a joke is not always healthy. It’s almost as if memes contribute to Duck Syndrome: If you laugh about it, it’s okay. If you make a joke about it, it’s okay. While memes can open dialogue, it’s important to make sure underlying issues aren’t overlooked with jokes and laughter.
Even so, memes are more than just furiously paddling ducks in a palm-fringed pond. They connect people, and they can promote healing through the dialogue they create. They allow for an expression of emotions in way that would be otherwise impossible. Seeing a meme about grades or stress helps people realize that others are going through the same struggles they are. This can then make those struggles feel much more bearable, and it never hurts if you get a laugh out of it too. On top of that, bonding with someone over memes is a real way to make a connection. Memes can strengthen friendships as people connect over common interests or meme choices.
Of course, most people would just say memes are a fun way to waste time, which is also definitely true. It’s great to relax and destress while scrolling through social media to see what new trend has taken the Internet by storm. And in the purest sense, memes are jokes. They’re funny. They’re supposed to make you laugh. Therefore, it makes sense that they’re enjoyable. Plus, college life just has so many opportunities for memes; they’re a great way to have fun.
Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.