Webster University students have followed a new Internet meme trend among college students to discuss the nuances of college life on Facebook. On Feb. 14 at 11:14 p.m., sophomore Anthony Fairman created the Facebook page, “Webster Memes.”
He created the Facebook page after Robbie Speers, junior, posted a link of Saint Louis University’s meme page to the “You Know You Go to Webster When…” page. Speers suggested Webster have its own meme page and Fairman took action.
“I really love memes, so (I thought), ‘Why don’t I do it?’” Fairman said. “I feel like if I did, then people would jump on board and explode it.”
Within 24 hours, the group had more than 200 members who created more than 150 memes, according to Fairman. As of Feb. 22, at 2 a.m., Webster Memes has 483 members and 391 memes posted.
“I’ll get home from class and I’ll have 50 notifications from people wanting to join or people posting more,” Fairman said. “It’s kind of funny to get on your Facebook and see all these new memes that people are spitting out.”
To lighten his notification load, Fairman added his friend Tony Burgesen, junior, as an administrator. While Fairman and Burgesen are “Webster Memes” group administrators and do have the power to remove memes, they do not approve posts. So far, Fairman said he’s removed memes that are not Webster related. On Monday, Feb. 20, Fairman removed a Webster-specific meme about a Residential Housing official, which he said, went too far.
“I’ve been trying to keep up with the memes that negatively connotate faculty and staff, or other aspects of the school,” Fairman said.
Before its removal, members commented more than 50 times on the meme. In the conversation, several members pointed to the First Amendment and how it protected their free speech with memes. Others countered while free speech is a right, respectfulness and taste are also important.
There was speculation on the Webster Memes page of university officials wanting to take down the page. Aaron Aubuchon, a video production professor, said he noticed an increase of interest in site while members discussed the possibility of a Webster Memes shut down. Aubuchon studied memetics for his thesis while in graduate school at Webster.
“I don’t know if there’s any truth to (anyone wanting to shut down the page), but just by that piece of information being out there that’s going to make people want to go look at it more and it’s going to cause the meme of the meme page; the information of the meme page is going to make people want to go look at it more,” Aubuchon said.
Charles Davis, a University of Missouri professor who specializes in media law, said free speech rights on the Internet are similar to free speech in forums such as a newspaper. Davis said he always tells others they should, “libel-check,” themselves before posting online.
“Could you libel somebody 32 comments down in a post? Yes,” Davis said. “I don’t think people producing memes are giving a second thought to it.”
Because the meme received negative feedback, some members posted similar sentiments on the Webster Meme wall — a small, vocal group of members agreed that the group is for funny purposes and that other users should leave the group if they take it too seriously.
Jeremy Clements, 2011 broadcast journalism graduate, said members should have a sense of humor with the page. Clements added his friend made a meme joking about the Galaxy Radio Station which he operated his senior year.
“(The meme) said, ‘Most popular radio show on campus / Three regular listeners.’ At this time last year, it would have really upset me but, taking a step back, it’s actually kind of funny because it’s true,” Clements said. “They are poking fun at a lot of things that are true. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? You have to have a sense of humor with things like this.”
Fairman also has the authority to make the group public or secret. Webster memes started as an open page.
“I didn’t know if it was going to catch on so I thought, ‘Let’s just let people see it and join it,’” Fairman said. “Then, as it got bigger and bigger I decided to close it. I feel stuff like this has happened before and not everyone is happy with it; not everyone has the same sense of humor.”
After hearing from students that the page should have free access for all, Fairman opened the group again. Then, Fairman started receiving complaints and was asked to take down certain memes.
“I made it secret for good because, if you don’t want to see it you don’t have to because it’s secret,” Fairman said. “But, if you want to be a part of it then your friends can invite you and you can be a part of it.”
Since its creation, members have invited their friends and more members are added on a daily basis. The meme posts have generated discussion about various campus issues and topics like parking, dining and financial aid. Fairman said the memes are a way for students to vent frustrations in a humorous way.
“It shows that we’re active in campus issues, and not necessarily campus issues, but the fact that there’s many parts of Webster that we’ve involved in and familiar with. I think it’s really cool,” Fairman said. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I was reading the memes last night and I was on the ground laughing.’ Obviously, everyone’s able to relate to them; have something in common.”
Webster students have created their own images for memes that are specific to only Webster. These memes use images of the Gorlok, professors, building on campus, the Public Safety logo and even Paul, a Marletto’s employee.
“I want to keep this somewhat clean. Don’t make accusations that aren’t true or sensitive to the university,” Fairman said
Bill Stephens, a freshman French major, was the 25th member to join the group. He said he feels many of the memes are adoring, like the memes about Paul.
“I feel like that’s really good because, personally, I’ve always wanted to tell Paul, ‘You’re really awesome and you always make dinner so much more fun,’ but it’s always a bit weird to tell someone something like that, especially when you don’t know them on a personal level,” Stephens said. “I feel that a lot of people are taking this as an opportunity to thank him.”