In Post-Quarantine College Experience, Niche Memes Rebuild Community


Alyssa Leong ’23
Design Editor

In digital communities such as Yik Yak, niche memes, and affirmation accounts, 5C meme culture has seen a renewed presence. With the return to campus, such meme hubs are a place to voice common (and uncommon) concerns between Scripps students and 5C students.

Yik Yak has become especially prevalent this semester. The app, which has been recently rebooted due to bullying concerns, allows users within a certain radius to post thoughts anonymously (think Twitter, but without any sort of identity save for a singular emoji attached). Its anonymity allows students to voice specific opinions, niche jokes and even booty calls.

One student was inspired to create an Instagram account for Claremont specific Yik Yaks. @5cyaks on Instagram is run by the anonymous GossipYak, who was inspired to start her account by the plethora of funny Yaks she would send to friends and wanting a larger audience to experience them.

As an avid Yik Yakker, GossipYak highlights anonymity as the key to the intimacy the app creates.

“It’s cool to be able to express feelings that might be seen as vulgar or stupid or whatever,” she said via email. “I know I am the same as a lot of other people in enjoying the validation of upvotes.”

But like every social media, GossipYak has found negatives in her Yik Yak experience.

“Anonymity means people can be extra honest and/or extra harsh, which I think we as a society aren’t necessarily conditioned to handle,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to see, too, so things can be triggering or play on insecurities.”

Despite these downsides, she emphasized the way Yik Yak has built community.

“I think people have also found […] people who are going through similar issues in terms of school struggles, mental health, relationship issues etc,” GossipYak said. “It’s also been solid for finding social events!”

Niche meme accounts have also been gaining traction this semester. @tipsyscrippsie on Instagram, whose name reads “gaslight gatekeep squirrelboss,” is one such account. Their handle is a riff on the Tiernan Field House account’s “Party Like a Scrippsie” campaign.

TipsyScrippsie’s posts are a mix of affirmations: manifestation statements, such as “Yik Yak will be available on Samsung phones”, birthday posts and jokes about their friends and Scripps-specific jokes (“Attend Scripps College!” one post reads, “Where our water is as fruity as our students.”) Written in quirky fonts, these are accompanied with intentionally over-edited photos and stickers.

TipsyScrippsie got their start by sending memes to a group chat, and realized their memes’ specificity could apply to a larger audience.

“When I get these jokes that are only relevant to this small niche, I don’t have to text every individual friend,” TipsyScrippsie said. “It’s like I can have a newsletter, but whoever wants could subscribe.”

For TipsyScrippsie, anecdotal humor has been a way of connecting with others.

“I remember that I always tried to collect one to two funny stories or ideas a day that I could share with people I knew as a way of interacting,” they said.“Now I’m able to look at things on campus as: How can I take a picture of this? How can I communicate this?’”

TipsyScrippsie cites affirmation accounts such as @scrippsaffirmations and @5caffirmations as their inspiration — both stylistically but also competitively. While they find affirmation accounts funny, they also think they try to relate to too broad an audience.

“A lot of our ability to interact with each other comes through learning, not just how to react to general things that apply to all of us, but to very specific things,” TipsyScrippsie said.

They cite the Toll Hall ants as an example. “You might not have ants in your dorms, you might not even go to Scripps or know what a Toll Hall is,” they said, “but you might think it’s very, very funny when someone posts about ants in Toll Hall, and learn to laugh at that.”

Much like Yik Yak, TipsyScrippsie affirms how memes can also keep students in the know.

“[Memes] have to have a more down to earth tone to pull students in,” TipsyScrippsie said. “That way they garner attention so they can capture a more honest reaction to current events, like the ants in Toll Hall.”

In a post-pandemic world, memes have also helped students re-integrate into society, both by staying in the know and making them more attentive to social cues.

“Humor is sort of like a language in a way… but different senses of humor can sometimes speak different languages,” TipsyScrippsie said. “Being able to have direct access to the humor… is a great way for me to learn: how do I break into this social sphere? What do people consider appropriate?”

GossipYak affirmed the bonding experience of the 5C meme community as well.

“Some of the different accounts are really useful, like 5C study spots and 5C nightlife, and the affirmations accounts are awesome,” she said.

“[Memes are] a good way to sort of dip your toes in the water of that social sphere,” TipsyScrippsie added. “Without having to go out and interact with people, it’s a good way to be able to get your ideas to people who wouldn’t talk to you,” they said, citing people they didn’t know reposting their posts as an example.

As meme account owners, both discussed how it can be tiring to run a meme page in fresh ways and the competitiveness of online humor.

“A lot of the socialization comes from this environment where people have very visible platforms,” said TipsyScrippsie. “And this is your only metric of who they are, of their popularity from how much they’re posting. You need to post consistently, you need to be on their feet. And you need to have that way of capturing their attention.”

“I feel a little bit of pressure (entirely from myself) to [post],” GossipYak said. “In a similar vein, I feel somewhat like I need to at least semi-constantly be monitoring YikYak so I don’t miss any particularly funny or relevant posts, and that can be very draining and/or time consuming.”

“[Memes] can be a way to connect with people, it can also inspire a sense of superficiality,” TipsyScrippsie said. “​​The attention you can garner with that page to reach is sometimes contingent on how much you post. It can sometimes force people to try and generate content when there is no actual inspiration.”

Both purposefully stay anonymous to separate their online and real life personas. TipsyScrippsie, in particular, says that their account isn’t their “personal meme page.”

GossipYak had a particularly memorable experience where someone tried to ask who ran the account.

“I answered ‘Dan Humphrey,’” she said, citing Gossip Girl. “I was told I was being ‘outta pocket’ but I thought it was funny.”

However, this separation of real and online selves can make viewers forget the faces behind the account.

“You sometimes don’t know who’s running these pages or what actual authority they have,” TipsyScrippsie said, “which is again why I try and separate myself as much and make my page all the about the memes.”

“I definitely feel a bit of a responsibility to make sure I’m not posting anything overly negative about any of the schools,” GossipYak said. “I know I’ve taken some things I’ve seen on Yik Yak a bit personally, so I want to be sure I’m treating all the 5Cs relatively fairly.”

Despite these downsides, both meme account owners enjoy running their respective pages – especially on account of the power trips they get.

“[I realized] I can really build a cult following [from memes], maybe I can get clout, get validation,” TipsyScrippsie said jokingly.

“I like that people follow the account and look to see what has been posted,” said GossipYak. “It also means I feel like I have a ‘legitimate’ reason for just endlessly scrolling through Yik Yak. Very few of my friends know I run the account, too, so it’s kind of fun to have this tiny part of my life that is a secret.”

But apart from the good and bad that comes with running a meme account, the best part of consuming memes is the bonding experience.

“It’s nice knowing you’re not alone, and that other people are also suffering from the Claremont cold or fed up with mile long dining hall lines for mediocre food,” GossipYak said. “Being able to laugh about the struggles we go through together is a really great community building block, and while social media can definitely be toxic, I appreciate it allowing us to make these connections.”

Image Source: Vivian Monteiro ’23

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