meme

Perhaps you’ve recently seen a Facebook page titled UTSA Memes. Maybe you’re one of the many students who has contributed one or more of the (at the time of this writing) nearly 900 memes currently on display. Or maybe you’ve just enjoyed wasting hours looking at them at all, laughing hysterically at the funny ones and cringing at the not-so-funny ones.

“But what are memes?” some of you may be asking, scratching your heads.

First things first: correct pronunciation, not “me-me” or “meh-meh,” meme uses the long ‘e’ sound with a single syllable like beam or jean.

But what are these magical memes? Most people think memes are just funny pictures on the Internet with words scribbled over them. While that’s a fair surface level assessment, it doesn’t tell the entire story.

The term meme was actually coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976. He defined it quite simply as a unit of cultural transmission. For Dawkins, the meme was analogous to the biological gene. In the same way genes replicate and mutate, so do memes. It was Dawkins’ way of explaining cultural evolution, the process by which certain ideas spread and survive in an environment of selective cultural pressures.

Creations such as catch-phrases and fashion trends were examples of memes, according to Dawkins. Memes are constantly struggling to survive in their cultural environment, but the Internet wasn’t around when Dawkins first started writing about memes. In the Internet age, however, memes have generally come to be known as “funny pictures with words scribbled over them.” Technically, that viral video spreading like wildfire through the Facebook cyber space is also a meme. Trending Twitter topics are currently thriving memes. Internet phrases like “cool story bro,” and “u mad?” are memes.

February has seen an explosion of college-based meme pages popping up across the world. The UTSA Memes Facebook page has garnered over 4,000 “likes” in less than two weeks. Websites such as like memebase.com and quickmeme.com provide users with templates to quickly create their own meme in seconds. Whether you’re a fan of Success Kid, Hipster Kitty, Scumbag Steve or Philosoraptor, there’s something for everyone.

So how does the student body feel about the memes?

“I think they’re good because they’re bringing a sense of school spirit, even if we are making fun of ourselves,” senior anthropology major Colette Few said.

Of course, with school spirit also comes a bit of school competition. There’s quite a few memes that are less about UTSA and more about taking a jab at rival Texas State. While the heated and rather childish arguments in some of the comments made me shake my head in disappointment, it is further evidence of UTSA shedding its commuter college skin. Rivalries are a part of college life, and as the popularity of these particular memes shows, an integral part of college culture. The best memes on display are the ones that point out the unique aspects of UTSA life.

“They humorously point out some of the truths at our school,” junior history major Andrew Vasquez said.

Memes that point out how terrible Blackboard is? Cats roaming the campus? Unicycle girl? The depressing Sombrilla fountain without water in it? UTSA is truly a special place.

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