It was a typical Wednesday afternoon when two bored students decided to create a Facebook group to rule all Sussex Facebook groups. Of course I’m talking about the University of Sussex Memes group.
The addictive group was created on 8 February by David Jonathan and Raminski Skii who tactically followed suit after seeing that other universities had their own memes sites. Within just one day of existence, the group had gone viral; it was liked by 2000 students, hordes of witty memes were posted by the hour and an entire new form of procrastination emerged.
If you’re completely baffled by the concept of memes, I will enlighten you. According to a very reliable source (Wikipedia) a meme is an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture through writing and other imitable phenomena. The term is a shortening of mineme, the Ancient Greek for ‘something imitated’.
It was also modelled on the word gene as it was coined by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (1976) as a concept for explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. The concept is analogous to genes in the way that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures, each of which influence a meme’s reproductive success.
It is evident in this case that the most successful memes gain the most likes and comments. One of the most popular memes with over 400 likes is an image comparing Sussex accommodation with various other places; Swanborough as a palace, Northfield as Brighton Pavillion, Stanmer court as the land of Far Far Away, Brighthelm as Wisteria Lane, Lewis Court as a Premiere Inn, Park Village as a motel and, of course, East Slope as a cardboard box. It’s not difficult to see why this image is so popular – everyone who goes to Sussex can identify with it, and once someone likes it a few times, it pops up on newsfeeds and there’s no stopping the spread.
With a simple internet generator anyone can create their own customised meme from a series of stock images. These include the ‘Success Kid’, the ‘One does not simply…’, the ‘Y U No’ and the ‘Socially Awkward Penguin’, along with an assortment of film references, celebrities and cartoons. It’s this juxtaposition of popular culture and student values that works so well as everyone can recognise them and indulge in the sarcastic humour and clever analogies.
The topics involved draw on the shared knowledge of Sussex students. These include important issues such as sea gulls stealing our Bagelmans, the bizarre Sussex architecture (metaphors of ‘Inception’ are commonplace) as well as that damn library gate (‘You shall not pass!’). A constant focus is comparing East Slope to a slum, slating certain courses (Media Studies) and being bombarded with flyers every time you walk through library square. Just generally the hardships of student life like 9ams, assignments and Falmer Sports complex being up a mountain. A recurrent theme is of course the unavoidable Sussex vs. Brighton rivalry, with the insinuation that Brighton students are dense chavs. For example the image of Keanu Reeves saying ‘What if buses go through Sussex first to give Brighton students something to aspire to?’ and the young boy with the words ‘Meanwhile over at Brighton…I fuckin’ love colouring!!!!!!’ Someone even replied to the backlash with an image of Chris Crocker saying ‘Leave Brighton Uni Alone!’
It all reflects the banterous nature of student life, and this unique medium has allowed us to share our opinions and experiences of student life in a light-hearted manner. The University of Sussex Memes group has brought a sense of community unlike any other through its simplicity and accessibility; you can contribute your own unit of cultural beliefs and see how many people feel the same way, or simply look through others’ memes and have a chuckle between lectures.
Who knows whether the Facebook group will prevail? At the point of writing, 3500 people have liked it, more than 500 memes have been posted, and Vodka Revs even dedicated a club night to it! David, co-creator of the group said: “It’s the first page Sussex has that anyone can contribute to and share a laugh together. And the best thing about it is we have half the number of students, but more likes, memes and hits than Brighton Uni’s own page! ”