UF students can find themselves falling into several different niches once they arrive in Gainesville. Intramural sports teams, Greek life and different clubs on campus can divert students’ attention from school or other social and professional obligations.
There is one other way students can be sidetracked. It comes in the form of an online community dedicated to the creation of UF-based memes.
The Facebook page is called “Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens.” It takes a satirical look at physical features of UF’s campus as well as the political and social issues that surround the university.
Rebecca Ragan, a 19-year-old UF music and chemistry sophomore, began the group March 21. Though the group is only months old, it has already accumulated more than 16,000 followers.
“One of my high school classmates started ‘Yale Memes for Special Snowflake Teens,’ and I thought of how people always refer to UF as a public ivy,” Ragan said. “I noticed most of the Ivy League and upper-tier universities had meme pages, so I thought it would be fitting for UF to have one as well.”
The group’s memes range from the innocence of SpongeBob Squarepants to the raunchiness of out-of-context porn screenshots to national political discourse. The $2 million allocated for the Reitz Union railings, UF President Kent Fuchs’ pool and Student Body President Smith Meyers’ arrest in Key West have all garnered a fair amount of attention on the page.
“The reception has always been overwhelmingly positive,” Ragan said. “I know that there are people who don’t enjoy the group, and that’s totally fine.”
Kelena Klippel, who graduated from UF last Spring with a B.A. in English, is one of the 14 moderators of the group and has the responsibility of either approving or rejecting memes submitted to the page.
“I’d say at least 10 or 15 on a slow day,” the 22-year-old said when asked how many memes the moderators review on a daily basis. “It varies.”
Klippel said her favorite meme on the page was a video parodying the opening to the show “The Office.”
“I love the memes that obviously show originality and time put into them,” she said.
Klippel became somewhat of a celebrity since her time in the group began the day of its inception.
“At first, it was purely comedic,” Klippel said regarding her relative internet fame. “But after borderline creepy memes being made about me, it started getting strange, yes. Despite that, this whole status is so surreal to me. I love making people laugh and being recognized for it makes me happy.”
Contrary to Klippel, Ragan seems to keep a lower profile on the page she created.
“I haven’t been at UF since Spring semester ended at the end of April, so it’s more due to me not being surrounded by the culture of UF all the time,” Ragan said.
Despite her time off from the page, Ragan said she hopes to be more active within the group once Fall classes begin.
The memes approved by moderators tend to have a bias against the current Student Government and against Smith Meyers in particular. However, Ragan said she believes the photos mocking campus organizations and individuals are all in good jest.
Klippel said with the group of incoming freshmen, the direction that the page will take is up in the air.
“I definitely think we’d get a taste of another perspective that most of us have already forgotten, being in an unfamiliar place and all,” Klippel said. “We already have some Preview freshmen who have posted in the group, which is great.”
As for incoming freshmen and those yet to join the group, Klippel had some advice.
“Keep things original,” Klippel said. “Don’t follow what other meme groups are doing. For example, the Gator hats on pop culture references got kind of dry after a while.”
Ragan said she has equally optimistic views about the future of the page.
“UF has such a large and diverse Student Body,” she said. “I’m also expecting there will be a good variety coming from the freshman experience … I just hope the new students will enjoy the group.”