A cultural phenomenon was born in 1976 when Richard Dawkins coined a term to describe the way cultural information spreads — a meme. Things have gone downhill for the concept since then, but what else would your Instagram feed be filled with without them?
Memes are typically crafted in the internet black holes of Reddit and 4Chan before spreading to the social media outlets most people frequent. Some memes however, are born out of their surroundings.
Jacksonville is a massive place and its residents typically associate with one area of town and trash talk the other areas. Whether you’re a beach bum that doesn’t cross the ditch or a townie that knows every spot in Murray Hill, there’s a meme for you.
In July 2016, riverside_memes hit the timelines and feeds of locals with a meme contrasting the statue in Riverside Park to a picture of brightly-colored underwear in a tree — near Riverside Park. Since then, the Instagram page has tackled the real issues of Jacksonville’s hippest neighborhood, such as crust punks, Sweet Theory donuts and fixed-gear bikes.
The internet took notice and the page has swelled to nearly 14,000 followers. They were like inside jokes of the Riverside culture that everyone knew about and, as a Riverside resident, it was amazing. But it wasn’t alone.
Soon, jaxbeach_memes appeared and directed humorous attention to holiday beach crowds, the Pita Pit sign (which is basically a real-life meme) and the beach bars.
But what made them so popular? Did we need social media pages to point out the trends and quirky characteristics everyone already knew? Hell yeah we did.
In the days of print, newspapers had a comic section to break up the stream of politics, crime and local affairs. It provided a few chuckles during the morning coffee before leaving for the work grind. Unfortunately, those days are slipping into the past. In its place we have cellphones that provide us a constant flow of information.
Chances are, the social feed is littered with crap you don’t care about and your family’s political rants, with a few cat and dog videos mixed in for good measure.
The truth is, we need memes. We need them to break up the mindless scrolling and offer some laughs, even for that minute. We need them to realize how ridiculous the way we dress or the places we go can be when taken out of context.
Most internet memes make a cultural reference that might miss out on some people but with local memes, we’re all in on the joke. We’ve been to the places, have a friend exactly like that or have the same opinions.
The city is so large it feels like several different cities crammed together, but they’re all unique and equally bizarre. Local meme pages provide us an outlet to openly laugh about just how strange the Bold City really is.