The dank history of high school meme pages

Elijah Abraham and Victoria Zerbst scrolled back to 2012 to find your shit memes

hsmp

I made my Reddam House Memes page in May 2012 after spending three days in an internet coma learning everything I could about the etymology of memes from knowyourmeme.com.

I wasn’t an anarchist or troll, I was a total nerd and teacher’s pet. I was motivated by a sense of school pride. I wanted my school to be a part of something cool happening on the internet. I also wanted to create the best memes: agile and intelligent memes that played with form and displayed a strong sense of finesse and understanding. I saw a gap in the market and I made the memes happen.

Looking back now, a lot of my memes were sexist, racist and/or poorly constructed. While some of them punched up at the privilege of my school, others objectified teachers or and punched down at international students. And no one really said anything. This was after I culled a lot of the really bad memes after a meeting with my school principal. I am pretty sure I organised that meeting to make sure what I was doing was allowed.

I also didn’t trust anyone else to run the page after I left. After a while, as the hype died out in June, I told people it was me and I moved on to complete my HSC major works. I deleted the page by the end of 2012.

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Reddam House Memes, 2012

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In 2012 a number of students were suspended from Southport High School in the Gold Coast after posting “offensive content” on the Southport High Memes Facebook page. That same year, a ring of principals in Adelaide were forced to shut down some Facebook meme pages after complaints that the content was disrespectful to their schools.

Similarly, our cousins over in NZ saw some high school meme action in 2012, with the principal of John Paul College describing meme pages as “hate crimes” and the girls of Rotorua Girls High creating a new meme page just as an old one was being shut down, as reported by the Rotorua Daily.

High School Meme pages peaked at around the same time as broader meme culture had begun its ascent from the internet underground into the mainstream.

The rise was not peculiar to Australia or New Zealand. A simple Facebook search revealed to us that meme pages that exist for high schools right across the world. In 2012, in the US, a site, “http://www.hsmemes.com/” (link no longer works) used to rank US High School meme pages. Apparently it was based on quantity of posts, but we don’t have a second source on that.

The two of us bonded over our nostalgic love for high school meme pages (HSMP from now on) and we decided to scroll through all the internet relics of the past to make sense of the high school meme community in Sydney. We were desperate to see who was behind each other page as we begin a deep Facebook stalk of Sydney HSMPs.

In Sydney, HSMPs were also grounded in early meme culture. Image macros were the hugely predominant format, complete with the unmistakable capitalised ‘Impact’ font and a memegenerator.com stamp. Beloved characters ‘Boromir’, ‘Unhelpful Highschool Teacher’, ‘Success Kid’ and many more were also a mainstay of these pages.

The real strength of these pages, though, was their cultural specificity. Utilising the meme template to joke and convey ideas about a highly specific environment is an incredible exercise in communication.

The admin of Sydney Grammar School Memes, Andrew Rickert, claims to have created one of the first Sydney HSMPs – having made his page in early 2012. He was inspired by the Sydney University meme page, which is classic Sydney Grammar, to be honest.

Soon HSMPs were popping up all over the place. Fort Street Memes started pretty noob, with the memegenerator.net image stamp in the corner of early images. The St Aloysius Memes were mediocre at best. Manly Selective Campus took submissions from students and published their names along with the meme, unless the student wanted to be anonymous. Loreto Normanhurst Memes were pretty excellent, averaging 100-200 likes per post, which is possibly the highest like average of any Sydney HSMP. The page died back in 2012 but still keeps its 1,100 page likes out in the open. PLC Memes Official tended to avoid the preset image macros, instead opting for layering text over images using paint/ps/some online image editor. Some pages even tricked punters into believing their page was the school’s official page, with people even submitting resumes to the page.

But with over 2,000 likes, Castle Hill High School Memes is probably the MVP of HSMPs in Sydney. Jay started the page in 2012, when he was in year 9. He insists he was “raised by the internet” and starting his high school meme page was a way “to connect with my community in a light hearted way.”

Jay served more as a moderator. Everyone at the school knew he started the page. He got people to send memes in and he posted them. He admits that there were some really bad ones, some memes that were offensive towards teachers, and many that have been deleted since being posted.

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Castle Hill Memes, 2013

“One day I was pulled out of class. The deputy principal sent for me to go to his office. He opened up his computer to Castle Hill Memes and said ‘What’s this? Did you do this?’ I replied, ‘Yeah it’s all me. Everything you have heard is true.'”

Jay told us he and his principal came to an agreement. They got rid of the bad memes, the swearing and the inappropriate content and Jay agreed he would make sure no teachers were being called out.

Jay told us he was really proud of his school. “I liked that school and I wanted to help it.” He also started an official Facebook page for Castle Hill High the same time he started the meme page. “I started off pretending to be the school but then I realised this could be really useful, people kept inboxing the page asking when school comes back after the holidays and stuff like that.”

He soon made the deputy principal an admin of the official page, and maintains that meme pages can be really positive if you have control. “If the school knows what is going on, it can’t be bad. You have to be careful with privacy and also make sure you don’t defame anyone.”

That being said, Jay also made headlines when he speared an April Fools Prank in 2014. He got hold of the school’s phone and sent texts to all the parents telling them the school had burnt down. He alerted the media and they all jumped on the story.

Jay asked us to let any current Castle Hill High students know that if they wanted to take over and make good stuf,f they should message the page.

A huge number of the pages were run by year 12 students, meaning that when the students were done with high school, the pages left with them. Many admins consided passing on the pages to students in years below. Manly Selective memes have been passed down, and current admins were very quick to respond to our messages. Another admin we spoke to, Nathan, is a current high school student who administrates BCC Clarendon Memes after the creator graduated.

This page has taken a dynamic approach to ensuring longevity – “We sort of try to evolve the page with the times,” he told us. Passing down ownership and utilising newer meme trends has been crucial in this regard.

However, continuing with memes isn’t the only way these pages have been kept alive. Rickert has resurrected SGS memes a total of three times. Twice to post staff announcements – including the passing away of a respected figure and the departure from the school of another.

He also resurrected the page when Malcolm Turnbull – a notable alumnus of his school – became Prime Minister. For all of these events, Rickert tells us the page’s reach went surprisingly far.

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SGS Memes, 2015

Rickert tells us another Sydney Grammar page propped up this year and on inspection, the memes are actually quite dank. It’s one of the only active and thriving pages posting at the moment and we recommend you check it out.

The death of the HSMP is important. It validates the idea that these pages were just like the memes that were posted on them – an element of culture, passed on through imitation, which died just as quickly as it was born.

There are a few other HSMP that persevere today, adapting to new trends and still managing to remain relevant. Some rebrand as confessions pages, others post ads for tutoring services or promote charity pages or non-profit organisations now the memes are over.

The high school meme pages of 2012 were part of a trend – the feeling of which is likely to never be recaptured.