By Michelle Lampariello
Students voiced their concerns about things like construction, bureaucracy and less-than-stellar dining options long before social media paved the way for jokes to be rapidly shared with wide audiences. Reddit threads, Facebook groups and now-defunct YikYak channels have all served as platforms for students to make fun of life at the College, but in the past year, a new, more memorable space has emerged: tcnj_memes.
Founded in July 2019 by an anonymous group of student moderators “of various ages and majors,” tcnj_memes is an Instagram account with more than 4,600 followers that has taken the campus by storm. With over 100 memes, each post makes fun of common student experiences including final exams, residence hall issues and the cost of tuition.
“We were inspired to create this account because we like making people laugh and the other meme accounts associated with TCNJ were stale, so we took it upon ourselves to become TCNJ’s dankest meme distributors,” the moderators said, who agreed to be interviewed under the condition of anonymity.
While most of the content on the page is created by the moderators, they do accept submissions from their followers. The moderators emphasized that follower engagement is a priority to them, and that they do their best to post submitted memes to their Instagram story.
Uplifted by the “constant positive feedback” in the form of likes, comments and shares, the moderators are motivated to produce more memes to delight their followers.
In fact, they noted that there are few oppositions to their posts. Additionally, they have noticed popularity spikes in some posts over others.
“The closest we’ve gotten (to opposition) are a few comments stating a different opinion than our own, and we the admins respect that,” the moderators said.
The posts that receive the highest engagement take on serious campus issues, including students’ access to clean water and electricity last fall. The moderators are aware of the severity of the issues at hand, and believe that in cases where students are experiencing a common struggle, “laughter makes any situation better.”
“Obviously it’s not TCNJ’s fault when natural disasters hit and affect the campus, but when it comes to other issues, we feel that it’s important to speak truth to power,” the moderators said. “There’s a lot of things that the TCNJ administration and various departments on campus can do better, and should do better. We feel that it’s important to highlight those issues such as the quality of food options, the cleanliness of dorms, the condition of dining facilities as a whole, and TCNJ’s infrastructure, just to name a few.”
The moderators develop many of their thoughts on campus improvement by listening to the students who are not only actively involved to improve the community, but are also following the core issues that inspire each meme.
“Of the admins that have friends in student government and those that are student workers on campus, they constantly hear about how bureaucratic the administration, deans, employers and Residential Education can be and won’t get certain important things done unless it becomes a PR issue,” the moderators said. “Even though we hear about those kinds of things, we still love this school and wouldn’t have gone anywhere else! We love it and want to see it improve.”
With new posts coming out every few days, the account is experiencing a steady growth in followers, the majority of whom are current students. The moderators are optimistic about the account’s future and hope to continue to energize a community of “Dank Lions™” with campus-themed memes.