Meme University: A Look at “Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens”

There are many things that make you feel like a Gator: cheering on the Gators in The Swamp, hearing the bells chime from Century Tower as you stroll across campus, arguing with your friends whether Marston Science Library or Library West is better (hint: it’s Lib West). But what makes me feel in touch with my Gator community, now more than ever as we are all craving connectivity, is the Facebook page “Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens.” 

In 2017, when this page was created, meme pages we all the rage. The University of California, Berkeley meme page, “UC Berkeley Memes For Edgy Teens,” was popular, and so Rebecca Ragan decided to make one for UF. What is now often referred to as “Swampy memes,” has over 47,700 members, and has become a fixture of the UF community.

Anyone from students, alumni and professors can join. Even Gainesville’s Mayor, Lauren Poe, is a member, said Brianna Moye, a 22-year-old senior journalism major at UF and administrator of the “Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens” Facebook page. Shalaka Konjalwar, a 22-year-old graduate of UF and another administrator of the page, said even one of her professors is a member.

There are many administrators, Moye said, whose job is to monitor the posts to ensure that the rules are being followed, admit members to the page and to monitor the page for appropriate content. For those of you who are not a member, you can easily become one. Moye said that “as long as you are a real person, like not spam or a robot account or something, we let you in.”

But there are some rules.

When you request to join the page (which you should do, it’s hilarious) you have to agree to follow several rules. According to the page, posts must be specific to UF, advertisements for clubs or organizations are not allowed, members can’t post anything “offensive/detestable,” no memes should be about a specific admin and posts are not allowed to “unfairly (emphasis added) target someone.” The keyword being “unfairly” here.  If members don’t follow the rules their posts can be taken down, or even removed from the group. 

However, there is a significant amount of gray area, it seems, to these rules. For example, memes featuring President Fuchs are posted all the time, negative and positive. Dan Mullen, the head coach of the Gators football team, was criticized in memes on the page for wanting to pack The Swamp with fans for the Florida vs. Missouri game, despite COVID-19 health and safety restrictions.

Moye said that because these people are visible at UF, like football players and those in student government, they open themselves up to scrutiny.

Konjalwar said the rules are in place “to make sure there is not too much negativity or dissent within the group. Sometimes people will post controversial things and there will be arguments in the comments, which is fine we encourage people to discuss things. But if there are any personal attacks or name-calling … then we have grounds to remove you and we have removed people before.”

This includes professors, some of which are members of the page, who are the subject of memes frequently. There is a particular meme posted this year that made fun of how difficult an accounting course and its professor is. It laid the professor’s picture over Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s face in a clip from the movie, Central Intelligence

Albeit funny, it’s not at all vague or ambiguous – the person who made this meme obviously has some grievance with this class and the professor. Is this in violation of the rules? The admins don’t think so considering they admitted the meme and it’s still on the page. According to Konjalwar, admins allow jokes and memes about public figures like President Fuchs or even the president of student government because “their public personas or people so they are allowed to be scrutinized by the public.” 

Professors, because they interact with students regularly, inherently leave themselves open to scrutiny because that is usually, I find, the thing most students need to vent about. But does it really matter that a professor is made fun of in a meme? It’s all done in the spirit of humor and suppose to unite the members because the reason the memes are funny is that most, if not all, of the members of the page, are thinking the same thing. What makes a meme not funny is when it’s unfair. That’s why the rule is in place. 

Another rule from the admins that stuck out to me as odd was that, “The admins reserve the right to delete any content for any reason, including but not limited to: memes with a primary caption outside of the image, use of outdated meme formats such as impact font, and memes that are not funny enough in their current state.” 

Why is impact font that bad? Apparently, this rule stems from a personal taste of style from some of the administrators who think the older styles of memes are “cringy.” 

According to Moye, the impact font makes memes look dated and “takes away from the funny factor.” One of the goals of the page is to stay fresh and funny and it can’t do that if there are outdated formats that detract from the message. Some of the best memes, I think, are the ones that the creators put the most effort into. Konjalwar’s favorite memes are any that describe majors or Greek houses. My personal favorite is a vine compilation meme describing some noteworthy places on campus.

When news is breaking at UF, I don’t check my email for messages from President Fuchs and I don’t check UF’s official social media pages for updates. I check “Swampy memes.” When the fire broke out at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, I first found out from “Swampy memes.” Memes have become a vehicle for people to express their opinions on current events all while informing their peers. It’s a method of change and a force for the community to feel like one, all while accessing anyone that wants to engage. 

Konjalwar says “Swampy memes” helps her stay in touch with what is going on at UF since she has graduated. Like the “Reply-all-Gate” incident earlier this year, an event she wouldn’t normally know about since leaving the listserv but found about though “Swampy memes”. 

As the page grows, the class that created it has now aged out and graduated and a whole new group of memesters is joining, unknowing to the infectious and addicting properties of this hilarious Facebook group. The archives of the page are like a record of all the noteworthy and controversial events that have happened at UF in the past three years. From The Swamp restaurant getting torn down to UF closing campus last Spring, “Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens” have been there for it all. So, whether you’re an incoming freshman or recent alumni that want to stay in touch, this page is there for you.