The page launched during finals season, when every Columbia student was in the library, looking for an excuse to procrastinate. I stopped studying and looked down the long corridor of Butler’s Ref Room; PrezBo’s face—the cover photo of the group—stared back at me on more than 20 screens.
columbia buy sell memes was born two years ago at a humble table on Butler Six in the middle of a period of caffeine-fueled mania while writing a paper on the Stoics and the Epicureans. My friend Lauren Beltrone, BC ’17, and I had for some time been considering creating an intersectional feminist meme page for Instagram. That day, this evolved into a new concept: a more focused collaborative meme page catering to Columbia students—a territory we knew all too well. At the time, UC Berkeley was the only other college we knew of with a Facebook meme page, created a bit before ours. Inspired by its relative success, we pushed the “Create Page” button on Facebook, and columbia buy sell memes went live.
We didn’t expect it to gain much attention. Maybe someone would post a starter pack, or throw in a picture of confused Mr. Krabs. That is, if anyone understood what the page was attempting to do. Even if it was popular for a week or two, the chances of it lasting seemed slim. We did our best in those early days to market it: adding all our online Columbia-affiliated contacts and posting “basic” memes that might inspire new members to post.
Over 1,000 students joined within three days—undergraduates, grads, and alumni alike. I began hoping prospective students would join, too. Coming from Hawaii, I hadn’t been able to visit colleges before applying to them, so I relied instead on outdated Internet forums to understand universities. However, posts from someone’s mom on College Confidential can only be so helpful. Memes, being both informal and student-created, have the power to depict the reality behind the façade—especially in a place like Columbia. The page brings together your angsty Hungarian Pastry Shop poetry readers, your SigEp frat stars, your international Canada Goose wearers, and even your Butler hermits. Our commonalities—stress, angst, joy, skepticism, antipathy—unite us, and how better to sum up such complex feelings than with a meme?
I like to think that, despite some controversial posts and the occasional infighting in the comments section, buy sell memes has created an inclusive campus community that was notably absent beforehand. It’s no shock that Columbia lacks cohesion—I mean, the fact that Butler is the major social scene speaks for itself (in whispers, I should note). Perhaps buy sell memes succeeded because it was the digital version of the hangout space we all so desperately need. Think of it like, say, a lawn in the middle of campus, one that is open 24/7 without a single white tarp in sight.
The page currently has over 46,000 members. True, its activity has simmered down since its inception, but the page still gets several posts per day, which means hits from students avoiding work for just a few more minutes. Today, I watched a girl in Kent surf buy sell for three hours. In the past two years I’ve heard Rafael Ortiz’s name around campus more often than President Bollinger’s. Did I also mention Martin Shkreli once reached out personally to buy the page? Through the cathartic tools of Comic Sans and doggos, buy sell’s community has shed light on the problems frequently ignored by Columbia’s administration.
Currently, every Ivy League school has a page, and so do the Seven Sisters schools. As our world and social interactions become increasingly (and almost exclusively) digital, this proliferation of meme pages makes sense. They attract people who want to feel understood, who need a little more than Aristotle’s advice on the Good Life to get by here.
This is not to say that buy sell is completely devoid of the possible harms in unfettered online commiserating, but my job as an admin is to keep the space regulated. Fortunately, the members hold each other accountable. Whenever a post or a comment is problematic, users are quick to report it so that it can be reviewed by admins. We ultimately make the final decision as to whether or not something stays up, but we tend to err on the safe side—harassment of any sort is grounds for removal. Yet, what is considered problematic varies from person to person: Conversations on campus have discussed whether the page is a toxic space because of the surplus of “depression” memes without offering solutions. This is common among young millennials and Gen Zers who joke about mental illness online in an unproductive echo chamber that writers have called both an avoidance of real problems and a possible source of support.
In the past two years, memes have become so prolific that sociological studies have been done on this ever-transforming culture. Memes are an addictive, machine-gun-fast method of interaction; they keep us entertained and keep us wanting more. The other day, a friend and I wondered aloud if there will come a point when we simply run out of content. Personally, I doubt it. Anything can make us laugh these days—for however brief a moment—and we certainly need that.
I am writing this today to thank those contributors who’ve made buy sell memes dank, along with everyone else who has been a part of it. I’m also writing to admit that I don’t know what will happen to the page when all the admins graduate this May. Perhaps the page will fade into the dark recesses of the Internet, and a shiny new site will take its place, or maybe we’ll select new admins who can keep its legacy alive. Either way, I’m grateful for the support the page has received and continues to receive from the Columbia community and the fun times we’ve had along the way. Thx 4 the meme-ories. :,)
Christina Hill is a Columbia College senior and a very creative procrastinator. Send her memes, thoughts on Internet trends, or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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