Nathan Turner sat with his friends eating a free pizza in Merrill Hall. A free pizza already meant it was a good night, but the night was only going to get better as he and his friends were about to develop a breakthrough idea — one that would grab the attention of BYU students everywhere.
Turner, a freshman from Irvine, Calif., was one of the founders of “BYU Memes,” http://www.facebook.com/BYUMemes, a Facebook page dedicated to putting a BYU twist on famous Internet memes. A meme is simply an image or video sent electronically. These images are often edited to include humorous captions. In the first day the group collected more than 500 followers, but things really took off on day two as the page quadrupled in size to reach 2,000 followers. The page has now accumulated about 3,700 “likes” since its creation.
BYU students are not alone in their meme craze. Along with BYU, t he PBS blog Mediashift Tuesday cited the meme mania spreading across college campuses including Syracuse University, University of Iowa, University of Illinois, Drexel University and University of Oregon.
According to the MediaShift report, Syracuse University sophomore Bob O’Brien tweeted, “The ‘College Meme Page’ frenzy is unlike anything I can remember on Facebook. Seems every school is discovering it at once.”
The viral nature of the BYU Memes page is exciting for the creators, but not everything has been easy for the freshmen. They have been forced to remove inappropriate material periodically and even closed down the page for a short time in response to spammers maliciously attacking the page.
The page took off rapidly. Turner thought the page would appeal to freshmen, but didn’t realize the potential for spreading the page among upperclassmen. More than 500 pictures were posted within the first three days, many by non-freshmen.
“That’s a lot more than we thought it’d be,” Turner said. “It exceeded my expectations significantly.”
Ryan Cottrell, a freshman from Monterrey, Mexico, came up with the idea for the page. Cottrell saw similar memes pages for other groups and thought BYU students would come together and enjoy the page if it was created.
“You know BYU, that’s kind of our character, we all band together,” Cottrell said. “We think things are funny, we kind of make jokes about our downfalls and what makes us great.”
Cottrell was right on par. The group started at 1 a.m. with the guys in the Merrill Hall dorms. Cottrell’s dorm friends all had their doors open as they were creating their respective memes. After creating a meme they would yell down the hallway for the other guys to see it. It didn’t take long as students outside of their dorm quickly began “liking” the page and started posting pictures with humorous captions about every aspect of BYU life.
While most people have been having fun on the page, there are others who don’t approve of many memes. The posted memes are riddled with comments from students saying the memes aren’t done properly. In response to this, many students began making memes to heckle the disapproving “purists” that want to stick to proper formats.
Austin Humble, a freshman from Portland, Ore., was the first administrator chosen for the page by the creators. Humble acknowledged the lack of understanding regarding the proper meme format. He suggested students go to knowyourmeme.com to understand how to use each meme properly. While Humble acknowledges the need for proper form, he said humor was the end goal.
“I don’t care if people do it wrong if it’s funny,” Humble said.
A large concern for Humble and the other administrators has been inappropriate posts. While initially there were occasional off-color posts including nudity, ridiculing Church leaders or doctrine and swearing, things took a turn for the worse this weekend. The page was attacked by 40 users posting pornographic images on the site. The volume of the explicit content was so great the administrators were forced to shut down the page for a day to prevent future problems. The students intend to find more administrators in order to keep the page moderated at all times.
While initially the problem seemed like an attack on BYU, it was actually more widespread. University pages across the country were spammed with pornography.
“On Sunday most of the meme pages went down because they were all being bombed with pornography,” Humble said. “It wasn’t that we were singled out, it was an attack on Facebook meme pages in general.”
Despite the opposition, Humble has high hopes for the page’s future.
“I’m happy with how it is right now, but it would be really cool if it was as big as ‘Overheard at BYU,'” Humble said.