Meme Culture: A POV from an IRL Memer

instagram memes Apr 17, 2019

When it comes to cultural phenomena, if it doesn’t become a meme, did it even happen? At Dash Hudson, we thoroughly appreciate a good meme. So much so, that earlier this year we answered your (our) burning question ‘do memes get more engagement than regular content on Instagram,’ and found that memes do in fact win by a landslide. So to further feed our hunger for more strategic meme knowledge, we tapped into none other than Tucker Bellingrath, who you may know from his IG (meme) handle @gaybestfriend. He filled us in on how he got started with snackable content, and used it as a way to craft his own voice on social media.

I opened my phone this morning and out of the nine unread direct messages in my Instagram inbox, no less than seven of them were memes. They were from friends, colleagues, and family members who felt a connection between that meme and our relationship in some way. Memes have become my favorite way to relate to others, spark conversation, and, most importantly, find humor. In a world where our news cycle doesn’t seem believable most of the time, we millennials have turned to memes for the ultimate satire of reality and as a way to connect with others.

Before I have my coffee in the morning, a meme is about all I can take in. In fact, my pre-caffeinated attention span has gotten so short that I even had to unsubscribe from theSkimm. Enter: memes. Memes are the perfect, snackable sight for the eyes. They’re formally defined as “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Written in two sentences or less, and often paired with the right photo of a Kardashian-Jenner, puppy, or politician, memes are used to help others identify with your feelings and relate to their own social followings. Of course, the ultimate goal for any meme is to go viral—or at least garner likes, shares, and comments that include but are not limited to “THIS IS SO US”—but none of this can be done without relatability or room for connection. As the original definition says, a meme “spreads from person to person within a culture.”

I was so fascinated by this phenomenon that in early 2017 I decided to start my own account, @gaybestfriend. Frustrated with the lack of creativity in my role in publishing, I started to claim a voice on social media, curating what I thought was the crème de la crème of pre-existing content. It wasn’t long before I started creating memes of my own, specific to my type of humor, and the trials and tribulations of being a young, broke, entitled, boy-crazy millennial in New York City. I felt like there was something missing in the meme world, and we—myself and my ego—were going to be the ones to fill it. In the words of Lena Dunham, “I think that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation.” I knew I wasn’t the first to the meme game, but as I started to make my own, I began to understand why people loved them so much.

It’s no secret that we as a society are obsessed with pop culture; but social media and, more specifically, memes have given us the freedom to turn society on its head. Nowadays, anyone can be a blogger, influencer, or memer, just by telling their story on social. For memes, what I found was that people—myself included—related to very specific “moods.” Whether it be trying to live like a celebrity on an entry-level salary, being too tired to work out but still closing the bar at 4 am, or gossiping about that annoying coworker, these “moods” have categorized a culture of young adults around the world, and this niche relatability has created a way for them to connect with one another. They’re so important, in fact, that it is widely understood that tagging your crush in a meme is one of the most crucial milestones in early dating.

What I’ve also found is that people are too quick to criticize millennials for always being on their phones, often referring to it as “anti-social” or “not living in the moment.” I disagree. I think that we, as a generation, get a bad reputation for our connection to social media. If anything, we socialize more, but we have just rebranded the way it’s done. I mean, why toss rocks at a window when you can slide into someone’s DMs?

Header image: @gaybestfriend

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meme creator

Tucker Bellingrath

NYC’s Enfant Terrible @gaybestfriend