One Saturday night last spring, I found myself in what was unfamiliar territory for a guy who lived in the Nics: Clark. To be exact, I was on Clark 3, a hall whose members formed one of those notoriously large and cliquey freshman squads. I was just starting to enter their friend group at this point in the year, so I was honored to receive a notification saying I had been added to a Facebook group (by my future roommate) called “We$Hookupz 2020” when I got back to my room that night. I had no idea what a meme group was this early on in my comedic development, so I thought the group was just a place where Clark 3 could post inside jokes. Little did I know that as my sophomore year came to an end I would be writing about the incredible growth and ultimate demise of We$Hookupz 2020 and the group that took its place.
I sat down with the creator of We$Hookupz 2020 (We$Hookupz for short), another sophomore, who requested she remain anonymous. I will refer to her as the Creator. She reflected on the formation of We$Hookupz 2020; the name, of course, is a play on the WesAdmits Facebook groups that become lost-and-found and event-sharing pages partway through each year. When she created We$Hookupz 2020, WesAdmits 2020 would have been the pre-frosh Facebook group.
“It was some stupid thing that I did while I was drunk on a Friday night at the end of first semester freshman year,” she said. “I thought it was some sort of joke with a friend at the time. Then we invited a couple people from my hall, and it became kind of a Clark 3 phenomenon and quickly spread…It wasn’t a meme group at first. I don’t remember what the first posts were, but I remember they were ridiculous and were the same three friends just commenting on things. And I just remember it was super male-dominated, and I was the only girl in it for a month.”
The school year ended, but We$Hookupz remained active over the summer. I remember staying in contact with people in the page through stupid jokes, and I even posted a few memes of my own. It was still a small group then with just over 100 members.
Coming back to school this year reinvigorated the page with new members and fresh content. I was an admin of the page at this point, so I felt responsible for creating and posting new content. None of the admins felt the need to curate the posts, however.
Camilla Lopez ’19, an active member in the group who became an admin sometime after I did, commented on the first burst of new content posted on the page. These posts were “starter pack” memes, which use a collage-like, messy layout to display the stereotypic clothing, sayings, and actions that represent a group of people.
“The starter pack memes were the peak of We$Hookupz,” Lopez said. “I remember just making them and having the idea for a quiet side or loud side meme or like a film or art bro [meme]…like very Wesleyan-type memes. They were making fun of ourselves and our friends…and people liked them, even people who felt ‘attacked’ by them. I think my favorite was the quiet side bingo I made, and it was one of the most-liked memes on We$Hookupz.”
These posts were the first ones to amass a sizeable number of likes. The group definitely had over 420 members at this point in the fall; I remember passing that number was a big deal.
On October 11, Wesleying posted an article titled “Wesleyan Student Starter Pack’ Memes: A Compilation,” which brought We$Hookupz 2020 to the masses.
“Yes, you heard that right: if you didn’t know already, there is a semi-secret Facebook meme group called We$ Hookupz 2020, dedicated to Wesleyan-centric memes, and it’s where my drag of the Wesleyan Film Bro™ was born,” author Claire Shaffer ’18 wrote.
This article caused the membership of We$Hookupz to skyrocket, and by the end of the semester the group had surpassed 1,000 members, or a third of the undergraduate student body.
Lopez was stopped multiple times and acknowledged for her activity on the page.
“I was stopped on the weekend nights by people asking me if I was Camilla Lopez and if I made the memes,” she said. “They were like ‘Oh you’re really funny’…I got good feedback from people, and they knew me for making memes, which I liked and also didn’t like…that reputation of just making memes. I felt it was fun, but then people just knew me as some annoying girl who makes memes online, and I didn’t want that to be my Wesleyan reputation.”
The Creator remarked on the page’s increased traffic.
“It seemed funny to me that all of a sudden people who in my eyes I thought were really cool and funny were in this group that I started as a freshman,” she said. “So on the one hand, it was like ‘Wow look at that…people are excited about it,’ but on the other hand, ‘Ewwwww what did I create? I created a monster.’ That’s what I think eventually led to its demise. I think it’s cool that it got bigger. I’m really interested in the way the internet spreads in general, and I think that, considering the size of Wesleyan, it was a huge fucking group.”
As it grew, however, she expressed how she became uneasy with the new, less-niche content.
“I think something that really upset me was the bro-y humor because, just like, I’m not in those circles,” she said. “It was the kind of humor that was just like ‘Ehhhhhh.’ I’m biased towards humor that has a social critique or is empowering to people who are socially oppressed or has something more to it either politically or socially. I really enjoyed when that was there and, on a less political level, there was a time when some of the posts started to be original and the original content was really good but was overshadowed by memes that were re-posted and that sucks.”
Owen Daly-Smith ’19 was an early member of We$Hookupz and had mixed feelings about its growth.
“People said the content quality went down,” Daly-Smith said. “Now, is that true or not? I think that’s a very subjective thing. For someone like me, the content quality went down. For most of the people joining, the content quality went up. Most people really don’t like shitposting stuff because objectively it’s pretty aesthetically bad. You have to be way into memes and meme culture to get it. I think like there’s definitely an element of elitism in memes…‘I know all the dankest memes’ and all that, and I think that went away when there were more people [in the group]. People wanted to post things that were enjoyable to a larger audience. So I would say…a negative for me was that I saw a lot less of the stupid shit that I like. A positive, it felt pretty cool to be a part of that.”
As much as she disliked the banality of the re-posted content, the Creator was happy with the space We$Hookupz provided.
“It’s good to share things with your friends, and I loved that it was a space to do that, but it was also cool that people made memes as a form of expression and were sharing them on the forum,” she said. “Now how wholesome is that, like as a free art space almost.”
With this original content and the growth in posting in general came content that some saw as offensive. Late in the fall semester, the group’s admins cracked down on offensive content.
“I remember there specifically being a time when Camilla and I and a few other admins were like ‘Ok, beyond this point, we’ve said this before, we do not allow racist content and you will be banned, we do not allow sexist content you will be banned, etc,” the Creator said. “If you are a [perpetrator of sexual assault] you are not allowed in this group.’ And I think during that it was good in theory and then hard to follow up on because we were just a few people and weren’t always seeing everything.”
On February 19, 2017, the job of censoring the group became too burdensome. Unprovoked by any specific post or member, the Creator and Lopez proceeded to shut down the group, deleting each of the admins and then the 1200+ members. The same occurred in June with the 40,000-member Facebook group, Post Aesthetics, which the admins deleted with a script that destroyed the group within a week.
I’m not going to lie; I was really angry. A group I had seen grow and make a positive impact on campus was now gone, and the quirky Wesleyan humor that my friends and I had molded and grown to love could no longer be shared. The Creator defended dissolving the group.
“We shut it down first with just a really childish instinct of, like, ‘Whatever, this thing that everyone loves?’” She said. “I was just like, ‘I’m tired of this thing, and it’s my creation and, like, if I made it, I can destroy it.’ I also just wanted to destroy something but not smash a window. I also think it was probably good for all of us…the government mines everything we do. Maybe it’s better we don’t have a record of the stupid memes we posted when we were 20.”
I texted with Lopez a bit that night. When I expressed my anger, she responded: “I’m sorry I’m kinda busy deleting everyone from the group rn.” When I interviewed her for this article, she was more willing to tell me her motives behind deleting the group.
“I think that it was just so big and there were so many different humors that it got to the point where we tried to censor and delete people who posted bad stuff, but then we got a backlash, like ‘Why are you deleting people and deleting posts?’” She said. “So I think the best thing that we could do was delete all of it, so that’s what we did…[the Creator] had the total right to delete the entire thing and people didn’t agree with that, but I support her.”
That same night, a couple of former We$Hookupz admins and I channeled our anger into a new meme group, one that would rise from We$Hookupz’s ashes and continue where it had left off. The new group’s name? Soggy We$ Memes. Asa Mazor-Freedman ’19 was one of the creators of this new group.
“After We$Hookupz 2020 fell apart, my friends and I still wanted there to be a campus meme page, so we made Soggy We$ Memes,” Mazor-Freedman said. “It’s become its own thing since then, but a lot of the culture is the same. ‘Soggy’ is supposed to mean really bad memes…like they’ve been left outside or something.”
I had always thought “soggy” in this context would describe Wesleyan’s New York/stoner/liberal arts culture, but Mazor-Freedman sees the word as having multiple meanings.
“Frankly, it could mean either,” he said. “When I first came up with it, I wanted soggy to mean that, but apparently there’s some other word for it already. So it makes more sense to mean really old memes, covered in spiders, and dirt, and leaves, and those white dusty pebble things in Home Depot topsoil, and they smell bad.”
We spent a large portion of the evening adding people to the new group, trying to bring up its member-count to spite the people who deleted We$Hookupz. By the end of the that night, it had a few hundred members. Today, it has over 1000, and the amount of participation on it rivals the amount We$Hookupz had at its peak.
Soggy We$ Memes was never and will never be We$Hookupz. Daly-Smith lamented the fact that there aren’t as many of the niche, “shitposting” memes he enjoys.
“It didn’t go through that underground period,” Daly-Smith said. “It didn’t go through a period when it had only a few people…Soggy We$ Memes from the beginning was a big group and was basically picking up where We$Hookupz left off. It just went immediately into stuff that everyone likes. You go into the FuckJerry kinda content, which is like, fine. Most people enjoy that a lot. I’m so happy that Soggy We$ Memes exists for that purpose, that people can go on and see something and be like, ‘That’s funny. I like that.’ I do take a bit of misplaced pride in it.”
Soggy We$ Memes is now controlled by nine admins, and although I have added the Creator and Lopez to it multiple times, they have declined the invitations.
The Creator is supportive of Soggy We$ Memes, though.
“I think it’s really awesome that people are continuing with meme stuff, and I’m glad that someone else has taken that on. As long as people are following up…I think that personally for a place like Wesleyan you need to be vigilant and PC even with all the implications…I think memes are really fun and a democratizing way to laugh and make friends and connect and are more accessible to a lot of people than other forms of media.”
Lopez feels the same.
“If they’re thriving, I’m supportive,” she said.
I can’t see Soggy We$ Memes self-destructing any time soon. Especially as finals and the summer approach, I hope it can provide a space for students to share content that makes them laugh and for others to respect and learn from (or not) other students’ senses of humor. Now that’s some good content.