The Great UCSD Meme Revolution — An Overreaction?


Madeline Park

With the self-titled “Meme Revolution” occurring just a couple of weeks ago, witnessing the overthrow of Faraz Noor Shaikh from his own Facebook page and the creation of a competing meme page, a lot has happened to the main UC San Diego Meme Page in a short span of time. However, despite all of the drama, many have remained indifferent to it. This brings into question: Was the meme revolution one giant overreaction?

Boasting close to 28,000 members, the largest UC San Diego meme page — officially named “UCSD Memes for Sleep Deprived Tritons” — can be said to have become an integral part of the UCSD community. In the short year and half since its creation in November 2016, this page has grown to define an entire student body, encapsulating UCSD culture through shared jokes and experiences.

However, in the span of just a couple weeks, this all came close to falling apart.

It all began with a single post. On March 21, in the midst of rising tensions during finals week of Winter Quarter, Faraz Noor Shaikh — creator of the page — posted a series of texts between him and “Timmy Triton” creator Andrew Diep, Sixth College first-year. These texts included an exchange in which Shaikh bullied Diep, denying him access to posting many of his comics on the page as well as putting Diep down in the process. With phrases such as “Stop acting like a damn five year old,” “piece of s—,” or even “You are beneath me,” peppering the conversation, it was not long before people became outraged.

From angry reacts to spiteful memes and comments, the post almost immediately blew up with criticism against Shaikh. Comments such as “This is what happens when you give people with low emotional intelligence a slight taste of power” or “ > become meme page admin > realize this is the best thing that’s happened in life > ‘you’re beneath me’” were constantly being hurled at the post. In fact, one of the comments by Sharon Oh, receiving 50 reacts, read, “A lot of memes on this page are recycled anyway??? ‘You’re beneath me’??? He’s a content creator spending a lot of time to make comics for the people not for admin??? Damn you’re messed up lmao … nice apology dude.”

Another comment receiving 30 likes by Trang Le said, “Faraz it’s nice that you shared how you talked to this guy, but honestly you’re an asshole. Hopefully you don’t get hurt over me saying that (triggered!) but Jesus look how you’re treating this racoon guy! They’re memes! Unless it’s child porn or a dog getting thrown off a cliff, let people meme whatever they want … smfh.”

“Stop acting like a damn five year old”

“piece of s—”

“You are beneath me”

From there, the drama only escalated. In the span of a mere two weeks, a second meme page entitled “UCSD Memes for Revolutionary Teens” was brought up, quickly gaining around 4,000 new members. Initially filled with memes against Shaikh and self-entitled “[s—posts],” the competing meme page quickly became the basis for the “Meme Revolution.” Posted on this page was also a Google document that included several of Shaikh’s “crimes” and instances of bullying, thus only fueling the fires of revolution even more. Led by former “UCSD Memes for Sleep Deprived Tritons” meme page administrator Nick Lin, current “UCSD Memes for Sleep Deprived Tritons” meme page administrator Armin Jorgensen, and other members from the administrator team, the “Meme Revolution” was short but radical, consisting of several negotiations between the administrator team and Shaikh.

“The original plan from the beginning was to cut off contact with Noor Shaikh and his page, and create our own page, where our goal was to grow, compete, and overtake his page,” said Jorgensen in a press release. “Our pages ran separately and competed with one another … Negotiations at this point were tense and not very productive. I made a decision as administrator to let our group vote publically on whether or not to accept Shaikh’s deal, and it was defeated with more than 600 votes against and approximately 20 votes for. In hindsight, I made a mistake in allowing it to go to a public poll, as the public was not in a position to make a reasonable decision.”

It was from this point that a final decision was reached. On April 2, after a meeting between Shaikh and Jorgensen, the conclusion was made to merge the two pages, thus making the “UCSD Memes for Revolutionary Teens” page into a complete [s—post] page (now entitled “Sp00ky Geisel 3rd Floor [S—Bosts]”). On top of this, Shaikh was forced to step down from his administrator status until at least the end of Fall Quarter 2018, thus leaving the leadership of the page up to the rest of the administrator team.

Yet, with the overthrow of Shaikh long past, the initial fires of anger slowly dying down, and the main page resuming itself to “life as usual,” the great “Meme Revolution” seems, to many, to be one major overreaction. Even throughout the revolution, the attitude of the general public seemed to be one of indifference or annoyance at the drama, with only a select few actively engaging. With no visible major impact made upon the memes themselves, many have come to question: Was the whole revolution completely necessary?

According to Lin, it was.

“A lot of times I think he was just overreaching,” Lin commented. “He was trying to benefit himself over all the other people, right? I think it really got into his head. And then I told him, ‘Maybe you should quit. I think it’s kind of way over it.’ But he was like, ‘Nah, nah, nah. I’m gonna keep this page because, oh man, this is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.’ … I honestly don’t really care about how he runs the page. My main concern was how he was treating other people. That was what motivated me to like actually start the whole thing.”

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Surprisingly, Shaikh also seems to agree with this sentiment. Despite being harassed with several hateful messages and the occasional death threat, Shaikh agreed that the revolution led to many positive outcomes.

“I banned raccoon memes and Andrew messaged me about it,” Shaikh recalled. “I was really rude to him at first and then I went on to bullying him as well, telling him that I don’t respect his opinions and stuff like that, which is really wrong of me considering in an interview before I told [the UCSD Guardian] I created a community space and stuff, so it really went against that. … And the way I was running the page, in retrospect, wasn’t correct either. The last time I talked to [the Guardian] it had like 8,000 members. And it tripled. So it has 27,000 now. And when the page encompasses such a large community, it needs to be run with a better infrastructure, better order, which I wasn’t adhering to. I was still running it like it [had] 100 members or whatever. Which is why when it was made such a big deal, I realized that what I’ve been doing is super wrong.”

This gets to the point of what the revolution was all about. Aside from the wrongs that Shaikh committed through heavy censorship on the page, he went against the very nature of the page and bullied another student. Having been such a integral part of the community, “UCSD Memes for Sleep Deprived Tritons” has created a whole hodgepodge of raccoon, Professor John Eggers, Asian Baby Girl, science technology engineering math vs. humanities, UCLA-reject, Division 1, Cardi B, hate-preacher, UCSD lecture podcast, and Piazza culture that is unique to our school — a culture that is meant to be inclusive of everyone. To deny someone from being a part of that, to bully someone for wanting to contribute to that, is a massive violation of power.

For someone like Andrew Diep especially, this was extremely painful. As one of the few original content creators on the meme page, Diep has been drawing his “Timmy Triton” comics since the beginnings of his freshman year. To him, “Timmy Triton” is an outlet of expression and a way to connect to UCSD culture. For him and other content creators as well, this means that the revolution has, indeed, been well worth it.

“The majority of people did support the revolution, but there’s half of the people that think it’s a joke — more like, ‘Why is there a revolution for the meme page? It’s just a meme page.’ But to me it’s basically the media of UCSD. It’s the culture, it’s the media: It’s all embedded inside the meme page,” Diep stated. “There’s a lot of misinformation around about the meme revolution. Most of the people think it’s just because of me, that I’m angry at Faraz. That’s not really true. The meme revolution basically gives the freedom to content creators to create content. Having more content creators control the meme page is [better than having] one person because the meme page is basically the culture of UCSD. … [I think the revolution was important] for future generations. I know that there will be freshmen coming in — talented freshmen, content creators. I don’t want them to go through the things that I went through.”

At the end of the day, whether or not it was necessary, the “meme revolution” did happen. While it may not have made an extremely visible difference, the ability to post content freely without arbitrary censorship is one that should be highly valued. The meme page provides a space for creators and students to express themselves, a space where their voices — and complaints — are heard and reaffirmed. It is here that community has been created and sustained. Just by looking at the support that Diep received through it, it can be agreed upon that this community is a strong one.

“You saw the community support that Andrew received, and how the community came together, and that’s great,” Shaikh commented. “It shows that we’re not socially dead, that we’re very socially awake. Yeah the stigma for UCSD is ‘UC Socially Dead.’ But this just shows social unity.”

For Shaikh as well, although he will no longer be an administrator of the page, the forceful break has a redemptive element to it. After apologizing to Diep and formally stepping down, Shaikh came to the conclusion that it was healthy for him to get away.

“Stepping away helps. The meme page has been a big part of my UCSD life so far. A lot of people recognize me as ‘the guy who started the meme page,’ you know, ‘the guy who started it all,” Shaikh commented. “Thinking about that and how I was wrong, it hurt me but it made me think, ‘Wow I need to change parts of my life.’ And stepping away gave me that opportunity — that I don’t have to think about this anymore. I can think more about academics, about more projects that I want to do. … In retrospect, I’m really happy.”

Art by David Juarez