Students take to making memes to air grievances about university


An example of one of the memes shared, using the Vincentian question to mock the arena. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Kunst)

Students are making memes and posting them to Facebook groups specific to DePaul memes. Although the meme pages started as a tongue-in-cheek way to make jokes about DePaul life and culture, they have become a forum for students to comment on and express frustrations with different aspects of the university including the new Wintrust Arena.

One of the Facebook groups posting these memes is called DePaul Setonposting. It is a closed group that anyone can apply to be a part of, pending approval from an administrator.

Junior Alex Bednar is an administrator for DePaul Setonposting group which currently has 345 members. Facebook group administrators oversee the content that gets published in the group and manage the group’s settings. They also regulate the posts and comments to make sure that the group members are acting appropriately so the page can avoid any content that is “just distasteful and seeks to bait a reaction” according to Bednar.

This does not mean, however, that the administrators shy away from controversial topics in their memes.

“I personally like to make memes about things that DePaul students are thinking about, but don’t necessarily say,” Bednar said.

Along with regulating content for DePaul Setonposting, Bednar also contributes his own content to the Facebook group. Many of the most recent posts in the page have been memes criticizing and trivializing the new Wintrust arena.

To me, and many DePaul students, the Wintrust Arena is a waste of money that should be used to benefit DePaul programs. The fact that the school and the city have wasted so much money on a shiny new arena for a failing basketball team really says a lot about higher education and thus has become a fantastic subject to meme about.

— Cooper Gelb

Junior Cooper Gelb is also an active member in DePaul Facebook meme groups. He appreciates the “top quality meme content and seeing how creative people can be.”

Like many of the other students who are a part of these groups, he is also critical of the new arena and believes the memes surrounding the topic do a good job fulfilling at least one of the intentions of meme creation.

“I like the critical memes because they are what memes should be: subversive, powerful and too confusing for adults to understand,” Gelb said.

The objective or expected outcome of creating and posting these memes is unique to the creator, but there is an element of connection that comes with sharing these frustrations online and in a humorous way.

Paul Booth is an associate professor in the Media and Cinema Studies program who specializes in digital communication and studies of popular culture including social media.

“Memes like this (and new media) are really effective at spreading the word about something, and about directing the shape of conversations, although this requires that everyone be aware and available on the platforms,” Booth said.

According to Booth, students creating content, finding ways to make it public and reaching other students is nothing new. The way in which people go about doing so may be changing, but the sentiment remains the same.

“To me, these memes are a newer media form of traditional student activities,” Booth said. “That they are about new additions to DePaul (the arena) and DePaul’s Vincentian Values indicate that these are topics important to students at DePaul, and reflect issues that students feel strongly about.”

Although these topics are relevant to students, Booth finds that the specific method of expressing these frustrations through memes may not be the most effective way to actively enact change.

“Memes are by definition fleeting, and in a week no one will remember these particular memes. Also, they tend to be shared and experienced by those of a similar mindset – the social media bubble we all inhabit,” Booth said. “Effective protest happens at a level of communication that everyone acknowledges.”

That does not mean, however, that this kind of content is not rooted with the intention or ability to inspire change or a movement of some sort.

“Humor, especially satire and parody, can be incredibly effective at making political and social issues come into the light,” Booth said “They are stepping stones to making protest, petitions and demonstrations happen.”