Tag your friends: UBC meme pages build community by satirizing shared campus experiences

I should be catching up on readings, but instead I’m scrolling through Instagram when I come across a video of reality star Tiffany “New York” Pollard asking “Where the f *ck my ride at?” And after last week’s snowpocalypse,, this meme hits different. Where my ride at indeed? I send it to the group chat — my friends and I are all commuters — and we share a cynical laugh.

The post is from officialubcmemes and with 18.8k followers as of January 2020, it’s the most popular Instagram account for campus memery at UBC. Friends have been tagging one another on officialubcmemes’s posts since its owners — both students — started sharing UBC-specific memes in 2017.

“I think there’s just this aspect of communal suffering that we all go through,” said one of the account co-owners, who wished to remain anonymous so her identity would not be associated her with her memes. Often, people running meme pages prefer not to inject their identities for community- building reasons. “I think that’s what students relate to ... Yes, we are all going through this and it sucks, but it’s funny because we’re going through it together.”

Search Instagram for UBC memes and dozens of accounts appear. But officialubcmemes and fellow meme instagram page moist.ubc.memes are some of the only places you can find original, UBC-relevant content posted on a more-than-occasional basis. With memes about everything from the frats to failing classes, these accounts offer hubs for students to chuckle over shared experiences — and their owners have found a place for themselves in an often male- dominated space.

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

The two friends running officialubcmemes made memes for their high school student council, but missed meming the summer after graduating. And so, they decided to post UBC content after starting at the university. At the end of their first year, the account had only about 5,000 followers per officialubcmemes’s estimate, but that figure has since more than tripled.

“At the time, we thought it was huge and we didn’t know it could get bigger. But I think it just snowballed into something that’s like all UBC students know it,” they said.

The administrator behind moist.ubc.memes, wishing to stay anonymous for professional reasons, was inspired to launch the account in 2017 after seeing flourishing meme pages at other schools like McGill, where she considered attending. moist.ubc.memes has just shy of 4,700 followers, but it isn’t about clout for her.

“It was originally for me and my friends but if it got popular, that’d be cool,” she said. “I just keep on making memes ... and then they just keep following.”

Coming up with memes is about striking a balance between uber-specific situations and wider campus relatability, she said.

“Sometimes I post something and I think ... it’s not great, not terrible — it’s just okay. But turns out people really like it,” moist.ubc.memes explained. One such surprise was a meme about “when the bus driver goes a little too fast at the Wesbrook roundabout” depicting a man standing at a ridiculous tilt.

Seeing new meme templates or reaction pictures sparks inspiration for both moist.ubc.memes and officialubcmemes.

Part of officialubcmemes’s process is seeing the trends but also finding her own style. An example is her bingo meme format, which is her take on the starter-pack meme. Her favourite one is about the woes of dating in Vancouver.

When creating her next post, officialubcmemes says that she’ll come across a reaction picture that is so funny it just works.

“It just fits right perfectly,” she said. “I feel like you shouldn’t have to think about how this can become a meme — it just pops out to you.”

Funny haha or funny misogynistic?

The ease of connecting to a meme helps make the medium so popular.

“Once you get what the meme does, all you do is fill in the slots in the way that is relevant to you,” said Dr. Barbara Dancygier.

Dancygier is a professor in the department of English and a cognitive linguist who has studied memes and their constructions. Although you’ll find countless commenters commiserating with one another beneath a post about failing exams, Dr. Dancygier feels
“very optimistic” about what officialubcmemes and moist.ubc.memes post.

“It’s for venting, right? So people always address situations where they’re uncomfortable,” Dancygier said. But boy, if they’re only uncomfortable about these situations, [that’s] great.”

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I'd say "weak" is being optimistic

A post shared by UBC MEMES (@officialubcmemes) on

officialubcmemes says that like anyone on social media, she feels “a great sense of validation” knowing that people enjoy her posts and have had a similar student experience. She told me about how she recived an unexpected audience when her brother showed her parents the account, “risqué” memes and all.

But one thing she hopes people take away from her memes is simple: “I hope they think that girls are funny.”

In her research, Dancygier has found some memes to be “misogynistic,” for example, Good Girl Gina. It’s no longer in vogue, but it has a top-text-bottom-text format characteristic of the early 2010s over a stock photo of a smiling white woman. Its creators used the template to describe what an ideal girlfriend should do. Essentially, it was a way for them to complain about their partners.

Today, the guise of anonymity abets prejudiced memes that appear frequently in far-right circles.

The officialubcmemes co-owners posted a gender reveal on International Women’s Day in 2019. Much to their surprise, it’s one of their widest-reaching posts with dozens of comments in support.

“Believe it or not, we are not 2 buff white frat bros who shotgun beers to impress girls and blast ‘Thotiana’ while we sip our IPAs like everyone seems to think we are,” reads the post caption.

officialubcmemes says that like anyone on social media, she feels “a great sense of validation” knowing that people enjoy her posts and experience a similar student experience. An unexpected audience she told me about was when her brother showed her parents the account, “risqué” memes and all.

But one thing she hopes people take away from her memes is simple: “I hope they think that girls are funny.”

Both officialubcmemes and moist.ubc.memes aren’t sure what will happen once they graduate. moist.ubc.memes, which is less active than officialubcmemes, anticipates ceasing to post after a while.

While officialubcmemes now tweets and joked about starting a TikTok account, she’s still mulling over whether she’ll want to reveal her identity and whether she’ll later want to hand over the reins to new meme blood. But for now, she knows that she wants to
keep posting memes and sharing lighthearted fun.

“I just want that sense of well-being to be spread within the community,” she said. “And, you know, you do that through humour.”

With files from Sarah Zhao