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Meme mania: An interview with a founder of GW Memes

student startup


George Washington University


Meme mania: An interview with a founder of GW Memes

The story behind "GW memes for The most politically active teens"


One of the biggest complaints students have about GW, valid or not, is that we don't have enough school spirit - but you wouldn't know it if you looked at GW memes for The most politically active teens on Facebook.

In just six days, the group has already passed 4,000 members, putting it in the ranks of Overheard at GW, a years-old page, for relevance to the campus population. The memes within are shoddily photoshopped, spicy AF, and satirize GW students and many aspects of Foggy Bottom life.

I was invited to the page on the first day of its creation by one Jake Kania, a sophomore and friend in the Elliott School who founded the group last week. The fervor around the group has fed into and been fed by the controversy and scandal surrounding the postponed, and then FURTHER postponed, SA Presidential Election. In addition to the election, the group has taken on the pretentiousness of SMPA students, the cult of Peter K, and the trashiness of the Vex - leaving no stone unturned and no student un-dragged.

Essentially, the Facebook group has taken over campus. It's become the subject of Rival meetings, the hottest topic of gossip, the LOLs of group texts, and the entirety of my own newsfeed within hours of its inception.

I sat down with Jake for a late-night interview in the Marvin center to gain some insight into the intent behind his group and his reaction to his newfound notoriety on campus.

"What first inspired you to create the GW memes for The most politically active teens Facebook group?" I asked.

"All of our peer institutions have them, like UC Berkeley, Columbia, UPenn, and Harvard. Georgetown has one too - but we're not copying them, we're copying UC Berkeley memes for Edgy teens," Jake said. "They founded theirs two weeks before us, but we didn't know - we're copying UC Berkeley's. GW students are characters - so they're easy to meme."

Jake said that he, his friend Jess Reed, and two of his roommates, Alaina Taylor and Tessa Coughtrey, were talking about UC Berkeley's group, and wondered why GW didn't have a similar Facebook phenomena.

"I was like, 'GW memes for the most politically active teens' and they were like, 'We have to.' After we had the name, we made the group, but we realized we had no content. So we spent two hours making memes. We don't know how to use Photoshop, so we had to use powerpoint for our memes. We distributed them to random people in the group to make it seem like this was happening organically, and not just the admins posting for themselves.

"It was funny - the first night we added 100 people and they all left. We kept seeing people get added, but then we were seeing it went down and we were like 'what....', but then people started making their own. Some I'm very impressed with, others are a bit disappointing, but hey, memes!"

"Do you have any previous meme experience?"

"I'm an expert on fine memes, a meme connoisseur, if you will. I'm in several meme groups on Facebook."

"Did you expect 4,000-plus members in your group in just five days? You have more members than The Rival has likes on Facebook."

"No. You can write that I'm happy [about beating The Rival]. We have a team of several admins and several other moderators. "

"Would you say that you created school spirit where there wasn't much before?"

"No, because I'm a member of The Colonial Army E-Board™ and Kate Bell would murder me. Plus I love the First Ladies too much.

"But! Someone posted in the group that the group created more school spirit, so."

"What do you think it says about us that it took something close to cyberbullying for people to feel there was a GW community?"

"We're cognizant that the posts can be on the fence sometimes, and we delete and moderate posts that are a little too attack-y. If someone has a problem and reports it, the admins report it, and take down inappropriate memes. We're okay with logos but usually not faces, unless the person is commenting on the post and okay with it.

"Also, someone added Tim Miller but we blocked him."

Jake told me he wanted this to be primarily for students, and while administrators can see posts, he wants the memes to stay focused on the student body.

Clockwise from top, four of the five founders; Tessa, Alaina, Hillary, and Jake, who appears to believe he is a member of Delta Gamma.

"Where do you see yourself going from here?"

"The admins are confident that we don't have to do much any more, but some people don't understand what more 'meta' memes are... people post random shit at all hours, and we're still trying to decide if admins have to approve a post.

"I think it can be a bit much, but we're still talking."

"How do you think the memes have interacted with the election scandal? Were you so successful so fast because of them? Do you think the scandal was really just for memes?"

"Some of them have gotten a little out of hand attacking individuals and making fun of some pretty serious stuff instead of poking fun at the campaigns. People are good sports, but if any of the candidates have any issues with any post they can report it, and we'll review it and take it down, but for random people we might ask for a reason.

"I think the situation really lent itself to memes especially because of the 2016 election, not because of the ideologies, but rather the expected winner, uh... took a fall because of a scandal that wasn't really verified."

"What are your favorite memes on the page?"

"I like the political grid meme because it was the first one all the admins made together. My favorite one that I didn't make was this Frank Sesno one."

Do you think you'll be a campus celebrity? Do you aim to be the next Kate Bell?

Anything else?

This is a formal request from the admins: "Y'all, stop treatin' this like Overheard, pls."

Jake and his friends managed to change the social media landscape of the school almost overnight, and many have commented that GW's school spirit might be making a resurgence. A new social media star has been added to the constellation that includes Overheard at GW and Peter K's twitter feed, and a new distraction added to the temptations keeping us from paying attention during lecture.

Maybe our time at GW was always about the memes we make along the way.