I got lost in the world of college memes for you, dear reader. This weekend, I joined over 30 college Facebook groups and scrolled for hours upon hours to answer one simple question: What makes BC special?
I’ve always have this aching desire to know what it’s like to go to other universities, to truly understand student life across the nation. Ever-changing national university rankings seem like nothing more than an elaborate popularity contest, so I wanted a better look into the ethos of different institutions. This weekend, while perusing our meme page, “Boston College Memes for Jesuit Tweens,” I had a eureka moment.
These silly little photoshopped pictures held the answer to the quandary that haunted me all these years—they would be able to show what was truly special about our school. With over 5,000 members and a highly active userbase, “Jesuit Tweens” cuts to the heart of BC. We are what we laugh at. The hundreds of pictures on the meme page paint a vivid picture of campus life with an ironic, yet accurate, brush. BC’s penchant for Mr. Brightside, Father Leahy’s addiction to new grass, and the administration’s refusal to build an LGBTQ+ resource center are all chronicled in meme form like a ready-made ethnography of our institution. What would other schools’ meme pages say about them? What quirks about our campus are unique to BC, and which ones are shared by all American college students?
I started my quest with Boston-area schools and with who else but Boston University. Its meme page, “Stolen Memes for Unoriginal Teens,” has nearly 15,000 people in it and has one of the most active communities of any meme page I frequented over my three-day meme bender. I am sad to admit that the memes in “Unoriginal Teens” are, ironically, much more original than those in “Jesuit Tweens.” BU’s page has a variety that hints at a greater diversity of thought and demographics than BC. While BU meme-ers poke fun at many of the same things we do—$1,000 Canada Goose jackets, crappy living situations, and their dopey college president—“Unoriginal Teens” has a ton of niche memes that “Jesuit Tweens” simply does not, such as a copypastas and strange images from the darkest parts of the web. The feeling I get is that BU has more opportunities to escape mainstream campus culture than BC does.
Harvard’s page, “Harvard Memes for Elitist 1% Tweens,” reinforces every stereotype you have about Harvard. I mean, the name alone tells the whole story. Common meme trends include railing against Cornell and Yale, and lamenting about all of the Harvard students who end up in the finance/consulting industry or how many relationships are little more than transactional networking. Going to Harvard looks stressful and a bit lonely.
Tufts’s page “Tufts Memes for Quirky Teens” is one of the saddest pages I saw. Many of the memes focus on the theme that Tufts is essentially an Ivy-reject school and that most of the students wish they had gotten into Harvard/MIT/Yale/Brown/etc. Members of the page also point out incessantly that the school has an overwhelming demographic of wealthy students. This is a common theme on nearly every page, but it’s amped up to another level on “Quirky Teens.” Going to Tufts appears to be like if BC was non-religious, even wealthier, and had a constant inferiority complex about not getting into Harvard.
Don’t even bother trying to check out MIT’s meme page, “MIT Memes for Genetically Modified Beans.” Even though it has nearly as many members as “Jesuit Tweens,” it feels like a ghost town. Posts rarely get more than 50 likes and the last meme was posted a month ago. I suppose the entire page is a meta-commentary about how MIT students are too busy studying to concern themselves with trivial matters like meme-making.
Sadly, I could only find four meme pages for other Catholic schools—Fordham, Holy Cross, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. Maybe memes are inherently anti-Catholic. As a totally non-hierarchical and chaotic medium of communication, memes might be more Protestant in nature and not line up well with the rigid order of the Catholic Church. But no matter: the Catholic university meme pages I did find provide some interesting comparisons.
Fordham’s and Holy Cross’s meme pages are quite sad. Holy Cross’s “Holy Cross Memes for Kimball Loving Teens” only has 120 members and Fordam’s “Fordham Jesuit Memes for Ignatian Teens” tops out at 1,000, but most of its posts are either stale Star Wars memes created by the same three people or dry references to Jesuit values. If you were choosing between BC and either of these two schools, you made the right choice.
Notre Dame’s meme page, “Notre Lame Memes for Straight Edged Teens,” is restricted to students who have a valid Notre Dame email. That says it all.
Georgetown’s meme page “Georgetown Memes for non-Conforming Jesuit Teens” is fuego. It is certainly the most similar in appearance to our own “Jesuit Tweens” group. Both of our pages point out the irony of learning about Jesuit values just to go work for Goldman Sachs; make fun of our ugly, concrete libraries; and, my favorite discovery all weekend, constantly talk about how much Mr. Brightside plays at parties. Turns out we aren’t alone, Eagles! There are more students coming out of their cage, and they are doing just fine. Going to Georgetown looks very similar to going to BC, albeit the politics are more left-leaning (the amount of communist memes was off the charts).
The more pages I scrolled through, the more they started to blur together. Every single page had memes about depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Threaded through every university was a generational angst—there’s a reason all of our meme pages purport that we are tweens or teens. But it’s not an angst exactly. Our generation is drowning in student loans, low starting wages, racism, sexism, and a mental health crisis unlike anything America has seen before—this is something much deeper, much more existential than teenage angst. No matter what university you choose, a generational burden of debt and mental health weighs you down.
Yet there is still something special about BC’s page. More than any other university, we have memes pushing for institutional change like an LGBTQ+ resource center, robust anti-racist programming, and ethical investing of our endowment. We don’t just joke around about our Jesuit values like Georgetown—we actively live them out and hold the BC administration accountable for their hypocrisies. Yes, we may be less diverse than BU (which is something that needs to change), less intelligent than MIT, less prestigious than Harvard, and less overtly Catholic than Notre Dame. But at least we “angsty” Jesuit Teens put our values into action. Or, at the very least, put our values into memes.
Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor