Cheng: Musing on Memes

Let's consider online humor seriously.

by Christopher Cheng | 6/29/17 11:00pm

As an incoming freshman, I don’t know a lot about Dartmouth. I’ve browsed Dartmouth’s official website, scoured admissions brochures and even went the extra mile to meet with some alumni in my area. But impressions can’t substitute for actual experiences. I’ve accepted that until Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, I’ll be an outsider looking in.

Luckily for me, however, my Facebook news feed gave me a brief respite from fake news to introduce me to a page that many among us may be familiar with: Dartmouth’s very own meme page, titled “Dartmouth Memes for Cold AF Teens.” Completely casual and at least sometimes funny, this repository of humorous takes on student life at Dartmouth is interesting to say the least.

The beauty of DMFCAFT is in its spontaneous growth, born from the initiative of the student body. It encourages the entirely unfiltered and amusing presentation of ideas and opinions that are often overlooked by formal publishing institutions including The Dartmouth itself. In its own way, it is a virtual simulation, albeit limited, of the actual Dartmouth community, allowing for broad mutual engagement on an individual level.

It’s startling to witness the contrast between President Hanlon’s official statements on one website and the irreverent depictions of him on another. While the meme page may have been intended to create a comedic sense of camaraderie on campus, it also offers a unique and unprecedented window into the thoughts of Dartmouth students. It is one that has been grossly undervalued with regards to engagement with incoming students.

Personally, I’ve found it a relief to witness ordinary people sharing their real-time reactions to the latest events on campus. This sort of transparency into student life complements the social media outreach initiatives from the Admissions Office. An advance screening of the daily culture of Dartmouth can only better prepare incoming students for a seamless integration into the school’s tight-knit community. More than that, it can even encourage alumni to stay up-to-date and involved with current events at the school.

The meme page fad that has swept colleges across the nation has begun to change Dartmouth’s outreach dynamic with its past, present and future students. Crucially, it provides an easy and socially acceptable forum for members of the community to interact, even without having met one another. Moving forward, all members of the Dartmouth community should — and will embrace similarly open online platforms as another facet of campus life.