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Meme page gains popularity at University

Over 13,000 students, community members engage with ‘Brown Dank Stash of Memes’

Facebook meme pages have exploded on campuses across the country in the past year, cranking out member-submitted images that combine humor with school-specific references. With just over 13,400 members to date and new content posted daily, the “Brown Dank Stash of Memes for Unproductive Teens” is no exception.

A meme is an image containing an established joke that “gets mutated and turned into other jokes and concepts,” said Matthew Ellis GS, who studies cinema and new media in the Department of Modern Culture and Media. The memes on a page like Brown Dank Stash of Memes are “designed for an in-group specifically,” he said.

“We try to avoid posting generic memes,” said Lucy Duda ’20, one of the page’s five administrators. The page is set up on Facebook so that memes must be approved by the five administrators before the content is posted.

Brown Dank Stash of Memes was created by current administrator Anina Hitt ’20 in December 2016. At its inception, Hitt and Dylan Garcia ’20 served as the page’s only two administrators, but the original idea for the page came from Arya Ökten ’20.

As the Brown Dank Stash of Memes page garnered popularity, experiencing exponential growth in March, three additional moderators were taken on: Ökten, Duda and Elijah Broussard ’20, the self-proclaimed “meme purist” and “task master” of the group.

By the end of March, the page had reached 5,000 members. The success of Brown Dank Stash of Memes “should be accounted for partially by the general tidal wave of (meme) pages,” Ökten said.

“The youth are flocking back to Facebook for memes,” Duda said. She follows 750 meme pages on Facebook and is the most frequent meme producer of the five administrators, with well over 100 Brown Dank Stash of Memes posts to date, she said.

The page was originally titled “Brown Dank Stash of Memes for Broke Teens,” but the socioeconomic term “broke” was contested as being offensive and was changed to “unproductive.”

“Good memes are spicy, as long as they’re not offending someone,” Garcia said. Controversial memes are often described as “spicy” in internet culture.

The admins of Brown Dank Stash of Memes agreed that the gold standard in the world of college meme pages is “UC Berkeley Memes For Edgy Teens,” which has over 120,000 members.

But the page can see more controversial content than admins would allow on their own. Berkeley’s meme page “had the word ‘retard’ in one of their memes,” which Brown Dank Stash of Memes would never allow, Ökten said. “We err on the side of caution” when approving memes, she added.

Miguel Zavaia Herrera, a Berkeley law student and one of the 14 administrators for the school’s meme page, takes pride in the page’s “spiciness,” but the administrators do respond to criticism from the page’s members, he said. “We had one a few months ago making fun of undocumented students that was taken down,” he said. “We have some that get reported that we either delete or keep.”

Columbia’s meme page, “columbia buy sell memes,” is set up as a Facebook advertising platform, which typically allows individuals to buy or sell items from people around them. Because of this format, the page’s memes are posted automatically and are not subject to any screening process. “We think it’s fun to have controversy and dumb memes,” said Evan de Lara, a junior at Columbia and one of the page’s nine administrators.

A community meme page is successful because it “delineates who is able to understand the reference of the joke,” and, in so doing, it “gives a particular kind of pleasure, because you feel like you belong to a small community,” Ellis said.

For instance, on the Brown Dank Stash of Memes page, there are memes referencing Chicken Finger Friday, the Program in Liberal Medical Education, the “Untitled (Lamp/Bear)” statue and the recent replacement of Morning Mail with Today@Brown.

The jokes in Brown Dank Stash of Memes find humor in “some kind of shared suffering,” Ellis said. This accounts for the memes about midterms, papers, unpopular dining halls, dismal study spots and general college struggles.

College meme pages are in no way sponsored or moderated by the institutions themselves, but University administrators sometimes see certain memes on the page.

“A meme from the page might make its way to a member of the University leadership from time to time, usually sent by a student who wants to share a bit of humor,” wrote Cass Cliatt, vice president of communications, in an email to The Herald.

For example, a student sent Cliatt various memes referencing Today@Brown because of her office’s involvement with the daily digest, Cliatt wrote.

“I laughed out loud at a couple of them, because we know that Today@Brown is still just a test right now,” Cliatt wrote. “In this case, the memes were somewhat of a litmus test.”

While some of the memes on the page reference current events, like the introduction of Today@Brown, many pertain to elements of campus that endure over time.

“I’m horrible at breaking news memes because I don’t meme well under pressure,” said J.J. Bellasai Breuer ’19, Brown Dank Stash of Memes’s most active member.

Over the summer, Bellasai Breuer produced one meme every day but has since dialed back his production to one a week.

None of the five administrators have ever met Bellasai Breuer in person.

“I want to know if he has a focus group, because he produces so much good content,” Hitt said of Bellasai Breuer.

In fact, Bellasai Breuer’s posts do go through “various screening processes” with his friends, he said. He often displays potential memes on his common room’s television, with roommates and friends gathered around to workshop them.

“We take it seriously, sarcastically,” Bellasai Breuer said.

In addition to producing his own memes for the page, one of Bellasai Breuer’s signature moves is commenting “nice” on every post. “I saw it happen in another meme group, and it just took off,” he said.

Part of what keeps Bellasai Breuer posting is the excitement of not knowing how successfully a meme will do on the page. “There’s definitely a drive to get a certain number of ‘likes,’ but it stopped being about ‘likes’ a while ago, and now it’s just about seeing how far it can go,” he said. “When will it stop being funny?”



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