COURTESY OF ALLAN WANG AND ASHUTOSH JINDAL The cover photo of the Facebook group, “Hopkins Memes for My Lost Hopes and Dreams.”
With over 4,000 members, the Facebook group “Hopkins Memes for My Lost Hopes and Dreams” serves as an online destination for students to post Hopkins-related memes.
Since late December, the page has been the location of commiseration and school pride, with students even fighting in a “meme war” against a similar page from the Washington University in St. Louis.
Yet given the group’s size, differing opinions have emerged regarding what content is humorous in contrast to what is offensive and should be banned from the page.
According to Hopkins Junior Ashutosh Jindal, a co-administrator on the page, the idea for the Facebook group came out of a conversation between fellow juniors and co-administrators Rachael Ladele and Sherry Chiu.
Ladele described watching the number of members multiply overnight.
“It was something Sherry and I thought was just going to be us and a few of our friends, but by the first night we were at 200 members, then almost 700, then 1,200,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Freshman John Moore feels that the group has created an environment where students can bond over common struggles faced at Hopkins.
“I think it really builds a community. The group provides a platform where students can humorously and often satirically commiserate about all the shared obstacles at Hopkins,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Also it’s good fun to see all the ways in which Ronnie D can be photoshopped.”
On the other hand, Sophomore Michael Feder shared in an email to The News-Letter that he feels the negativity found in some of the memes on the page belittles rather than fosters student pride.
“I would say that it’s a blow to school spirit, if there was any school spirit in the first place,” Feder wrote, “That being said, I don’t think there’s anything else more ‘Hopkins’ than kvetching about Hopkins. In that sense, the memes page is the most spirited addition to student life since that god awful statue outside the FFC.”
Junior Freddie McCall, who is not a member of the group, explained that he did not like how the memes focused on the University’s high stress levels and intense workload.
“I think Hopkins humor revolves too much around work-hard mentality, and that gets old really quickly,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Memes are just a way to procrastinate and have low-level stimulation, like all of social media.”
The page has not existed without controversy. At the beginning of winter break, the page was trolled with memes on topics including Sept. 11 and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Group administrators had to decide whether to delete inflammatory posts or block certain group members.
“We try to not limit free speech, but there are some memes that clearly cross a line, and in those specific instances were posted for the purpose of offending people,” Jindal wrote. “I guess the only rule I follow is ‘Does deleting this meme or blocking this person improve everyone’s experience?’ If I answer yes, I’ll take that action.”
Co-administrator junior Monica Zewdie further described the process for evaluating controversial content.
“Almost all decisions on sensitive matters on the page start with a conversation between the admins and, at least for me, continue with debate and counsel with other friends or members, ” Zewdie wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “This may be far from perfect, but I think it is as close to democratic and fair we can get for a meme page!”
According to Ladele, the group members that have been impacted by these decisions to remove posts or block certain users from the page have responded well.
“When we have had to take actions to ensure the page is run smoothly, the people on both sides have been relatively mature and adult about everything, and that definitely makes all of this easier,” Ladele wrote.
Another prominent event of the memes page was the “meme war” against the Washington University in St. Louis.
After several students discovered that a post in “WashU Memes for Needy Tweens” page mocked a Hopkins meme, members of both groups began infiltrating the other’s page. Students debated their respective school’s rankings and battled one another through witty comments.
Moore enjoyed spectating the ensuing meme war.
“I have a friend from high school at WashU, so I got to see both sides of the war, and from what I saw it was an awesome display of pure ridiculousness and the creation of a healthy rivalry,” he wrote.
As for whether or not there will be another meme war in the future, Jindal believes it is in the hands of the two group’s members.
“The meme wars aren’t really started by us; They happen organically,” he wrote. “If a student wants a meme war, we encourage them to start one.”