It should come as no surprise to you that Internet culture is becoming more and more integrated with mainstream culture as time passes. Perhaps you have noticed some of your friends using the term ‘epic fail’ (about 9 years too late), or maybe your Facebook news feed has been overtaken with cutesy rage comics about everyday annoyances. Whether you love it or hate it, the boundaries between ‘deep’ Internet (see: 4chan), the Internet frequented by Normal Ordinary Responsible People (e.g. FMyLife), and “meatspace” are becoming increasingly blurred.
While this may not be news to you, a very recent phenomenon may mark the end of the separation between Internet culture and mainstream sensibilities. Over the past few days, Facebook has been overtaken by groups for college memes. These groups are dedicated to documenting campus-wide inside jokes in meme form, usually with some advice dog variant. See, for example, the meme group for USC. While memes have appeared on college campuses fairly frequently over the past couple of years, this is the first time in which relics of the deeper internet have found a truly widespread audience (well, there is a show on BBC called Epic Win, but that phrase hasn’t belonged to the Internet for years). To the university students of today, memes aren’t inside jokes for basement-dwellers with no real-life friends. In fact, they probably don’t know where memes came from in the first place. Now they are simply fun little pictures that they can share with their friends through Facebook feeds.
Over the next few months or so, these groups may evoke an outcry from the communities that have been fueled by memes for years. While advice dog variants and rage comics aren’t as group-special as, say, Giga Pudding, they were still something that these communities called their own. Blame will undoubtedly be placed upon websites such as MemeGenerator and 9gag, who have made a killing commercializing Internet culture. It will be placed upon the overeager Reddit users who spout memes in everyday conversation as well. You know the type.If you look at it from their perspective, they are right. Internet culture has been bleeding into mainstream culture for a while now, and those profiting from Internet culture are the ones who wielded the largest knife. With the arrival of college memes, it seems that a main vein has been cut. Yet, is this an entirely bad thing?
Your reaction to the popularization of memes will depend upon how you value Internet culture. Some of you may enjoy the fact that a ‘lifestyle’ you’re invested in is gaining more mainstream acceptance. After all, these memes are a fun way for people to laugh over their shared experiences. Those of us who never liked memes in the first place (okay, Frosted Butts is pretty cool) may be irritated that this wretched part of the online experience is leaking into reality. Some of you might feel a bit betrayed; many Internet-goers are already lamenting the emerging popularity of ‘geek culture’, and the widespread use of memes represents another blow to the exclusiveness of the geek identity.Regardless of what you think about the mainstream acceptance of Internet culture, and college memes in particular, it will be interesting to see what the future holds. Will this meme-leak be an isolated incident, or does this mark a giant step to the integration of Internet culture into mainstream taste? Will the deep, dark corners of the Internet remain hidden from the eyes of N.O.R.P.s, or will they become as widely-used as Facebook and Reddit? Tell us what you think!