One does not simply ignore the ‘Umass Meme’ craze

By Chelsie Field

Recent weeks have brought an Internet sensation that it seems everyone is talking about. It’s not a celebrity or a famous musical artist – in fact, it’s not even human.

Kristi Ginter/Facebook

The epicenter of all the hype is the “Umass Memes” Facebook page and it’s the latest and most local iteration of the meme craze that is currently taking the Internet by storm.

First off – what exactly is a meme? In this case, a meme – which rhymes with “beam” – is a picture or caption combination that pokes fun at a specific, often esoteric fact of life and gets propagated all over the Internet. The image can be anything, but is usually one of a few dozen instantly recognizable characters like “Socially Awkward Penguin” or “Insanity Wolf.”

The caption is superimposed on the image, spelled out in loud, all-caps lettering. If the joke is relatable enough and funny to boot, it explodes in ephemeral popularity.

Enter the “Umass Memes” Facebook page.

It was created about three weeks ago and has steadily accrued interest with the college meme obsession. With over 11,000 likes, the page posts meme contributions made for and mostly by University of Massachusetts students. As new memes are added onto the page, students “like” and comment on their favorites and those they dislike, connected by an inside joke pertaining to the University and campus culture.

Topics of these Internet memes range from puns on campus architecture design flaws –“Class in confusing science building? I’ll be there for Morrill support” – to references to residential stereotypes – Harry Potter to Sorting Hat: “Not Sylvan, not Sylvan.”

According to the Facebook page, Roger Clemens posted what would become one of the most popular UMass memes to date. The meme depicted a cartoon stick figure nearly falling backward in his deceptively safe rocking dorm chair, a false alarm experience relatable to many college students. The meme has over 1,700 likes.

Clemens had no idea his post would be so popular.

“I’m glad I was able to make thousands of people laugh over Facebook – it feels good,” said Clemens.

Before now, mystery and rumor has surrounded the exact details of the creator of the Facebook page. There are two administrators to the Facebook page and they maintain it daily, organizing and crediting the memes they receive in order to repost such additions on the page, as well as making some memes of their own.

Ruthvik Gunna and Joe Petrelli, both sophomore kinesiology majors, are the two operators behind the curtain, so to speak.

“I think it was inevitable that someone had to make [the page]. We just happened to be the first ones,” says Petrelli.

Gunna originally created the “Umass Memes” Facebook page after seeing another university’s meme page and thinking UMass could also find success in such a page. He quickly added Petrelli, a close friend, as a second administrator to the page. Gunna’s first meme contribution, which features Boromir from the “Lord of the Rings” movie franchise, has a dramatic caption that reads: “One does not simply connect to UMass Secure 1x.” The meme currently holds 1,245 likes, making it one of the most popular memes on the page and a legend in the world of UMass memes.

During the height of the hype near the page’s inception, when it seemed all of campus was talking about “Umass Memes,” Gunna and Petrelli were handling more than 30 meme contributions an hour. Gunna would spend a couple hours a day reposting and maintaining the page during this time.

Anyone can submit a meme, and the administrators repost the most popular and funniest ones, sending them to “Umass Meme” fame. There are currently 173 reposted memes out of hundreds of contributions. Only when extremely controversial memes are posted, triggering outraged feedback – there was one inflammatory contribution about rape – does the page resort to outright censorship.

“It’s not worth the cheap laughs over such sensitive topics,” said Petrelli.

Even with such a high level of interest on campus, the meme craze has begun to wind down. Gunna and Petrelli knew from the beginning it would be a fad.

“Memes will die out,” said Gunna – about both “Umass Memes” and Internet memes in general.

And yet, many students still find entertainment revisiting the page. Though the number of contributions has dwindled down to only a few every hour, the influence of the page can still be seen around campus in the form of informational posters and even on the back of takeout food orders.

“I’ll sit in lecture hall and see kids on the page, and it makes me laugh,” said Petrelli.

Gunna and Petrelli will continue maintenance of the page even with the decline in popularity, citing that memes are still funny even though the hype is mainly over with.

The “Umass Meme” craze may have been temporary, but it certainly weaseled its way into the heart of campus popular culture, connecting thousands of students with a single laugh – or, in this case, with hundreds of laughs.

Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected]