If a good picture is worth 1,000 words, a great meme must be worth 1,000 likes.
Just London Memes – a facebook page dedicated to memes about life in London – has surpassed 8,000 likes and continues to grow.
It’s administrators/founders, Colin Hobin and Taylor Burgess sat down with LondonFuse to talk about the page’s success, what makes a meme, and what it means to toe the line between good and bad taste.
The two create the majority of memes for the page, sometimes using well-worn images updated with captions about life in London and other times images shot on the spot. Creating local memes is all about being in the right place at the right time.
Burgess said the trick is to be quick with your phone, because you never know when you’ll come across comedy gold.
The page’s target demographic is Millennials – people who have grown up within meme culture and who can most relate to it. However, the audience has a huge range in ages.
But, two guys with phones can only do so much.
What keeps the page going is the huge amount of buy-in it’s had with fan-generated memes.
When it comes to submissions – and memes in general – it’s all about being able to relate.
“If I see a meme and I can relate to it, it’s an easy one to say we’ll definitely post,” Burgess says.
“As long as it’s funny,” he says. “If it makes me chuckle and it’s not too bad, I’ll post it.”
Some of the submissions have been tongue-in-cheek at best and outright offensive at worst. The question then becomes – do you keep it up and challenge people’s perceptions or do you remove it?
To answer that, you have to look at the influences of the page admins.
The pair share a similar taste in comedy – both are drawn to irreverent humour. It’s the backbone of meme culture.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) follow the philosophy that either everything is funny or nothing is. C.K. insists that dark jokes are necessary to make dark situations lighter.
It’s reflected in much of the content on Just London Memes. Most are just quick laughs, but they do bring light to local issues using only a static image and sentence fragments.
The most popular memes on the site have to deal with everybody’s favourite local kicking post – the LTC.
However, there are some memes that will immediately hit the junk pile.
There have been times when memes on the page have gone too far. Oddly enough though, Hobin and Burgess say the posts that get reported to facebook are often not controversial at all.
“We’re having a hard time getting a grip on what facebook finds approvable,” Burgess says, noting it’s relatively tame posts that get reported while more risque memes have caused no alarm.
“Facebook didn’t explain,” Hobin says of the last time the page was taken down. “It’s something we didn’t know, but had to try to navigate around.”
Just London Memes draws the line at memes that promote violence, target individuals and promote racism. If memes do have photos of individuals, the administrators try make sure the submitter knows the person they are posting about and that it’s all in good fun. If anyone wants their name or image removed, they do so. As Burgess says – “We’re reasonable people. We’re not out to hurt anyone.
“It’s all about having a good time.”
Memes may come across as flash-in-the-pan gags. But scratch a little deeper and the underlying social issues can create great discussions. Sometimes, the best way to define the line is to let nature run its course.
Hobin says one of his more recent controversial memes involved an image of a woman holding a sign promoting Lost Life – a campaign by the Advocacy of Veganism Society.
The woman’s placard has the face of a chicken on it, and the photo was appropriately (or inappropriately) captioned:
“WINNER WINNER… Chicken dinner”
It blew up. People were pissed. Others were pleased.
The post remains on the page, with very good reason.
“We left the entire post in full view,” Hobin says. “There was a debate on both sides whether it was right or wrong to do that.”
Burgess noted another meme poking fun at a local vegan restaurant spawned a structured debate. Participants were civil and provided citations to back up their opinions.
Had the post been taken down due to initial shock or outrage, he says, that conversation never would have taken place.
Love it or leave it
Meanwhile, the page’s audience continues to grow, as do the number of fan submissions.
Check it out for yourself – have some laughs, challenge your opinions and prepare to see a lot of LTC and Richmond Row jokes.
Love or hate the page, Londoners can agree it’s a hard line to draw between free expression and bad taste.
For Just London Memes, that’s a very good thing.