The team behind the meme: Facebook group creates sense of community online

Lindsay Freed, Senior Staff Writer

Many UVM students with a Facebook account recognize the iconic photo of a frog framed by the words “Farm Fresh, Locally Grown Memes.”

This is the cover photo for Make UV Groovy Again, a Facebook group dedicated to memes. The group has more than 3,400 members.

The group was created in April 2017 by sophomores Camil Srna and Will Wuttke to create a space for comedy, Srna said.

“[People post in class groups] just when people have lost something, or for subletters,” Srna  said. “You can’t have a real discussion or get to know other people.”

The two sophomores created Make UV Groovy Again after a student posted a meme in the Class of 2020 Facebook group and another student commented saying there should be a meme group, Wuttke said.

Many memes shared on the page are about UVM, such as dining halls and the Wellness Environment, first-year Make UV Groovy Again moderator Lexi Kravitz said.

The Wellness Environment became a popular target on the meme page after the Blue Penis Gate scandal — when a group of students in WE got in trouble for making a penis out of blue sticky notes in their window, Wuttke said.

“I think that really led to a lot of people analyzing their issues with WE,” Wuttke said.

“It’s not all negative, but I do think the best way to see valid criticisms of things like WE is to go to [Make UV Groovy Again],” he said. “I actually think people put a lot of good arguments in meme form.”

WE supports students who want to be healthy and avoid the pressures of substance use, stated Jeff Rettew, assistant director of WE, in an April 2 email.

“When it comes to UVM-specific things, no one else is going to understand,” Kravitz said. “But now we have this community that understands these jokes.”

Mental health is another popular issue in the meme page, Wuttke said.

Wuttke said the group gets a lot of depression memes.

Student use memes to create dialogue around their experiences with mental illness, Kravitz said.

Using memes to talk about anxiety and depression reduces stigma, said Todd Weinman, director of UVM Counseling and Psychiatry Services.

The exclusivity of meme culture is what allows it to become a tool for community building, said sociology professor Tom Streeter, whose research focuses on media.

“It lends itself to making fun of people who are outside the group: ‘normies,’” he  said.