The Origin of Memes

A research piece on the true source of memes.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Ying Chen

Memes: An Internet Mystery. They delight, confuse, and unite web users far and wide. While their effects are felt by many, you may be surprised to hear that their origin is more cryptic than you may think.

To investigate this conundrum, The Spectator asked a group of Stuyvesant students where they got their memes. We frequently heard, “I get all my memes from Reddit,” or, “I find them on Twitter usually.” One even admitted to getting memes from a DeviantArt message board and was quickly ostracized by the group of interviewees. Most puzzling was that no one was making his or her own memes: they were all sourced from various websites. We even interviewed local Onion writer Bradley Smemdleman for insight into who was making these memes. He answered, “I dunno. I get all my memes from an archived IM chatroom from 2006. Y U No know where they came from, m8? That mate’s with an eight, by the way.”

All of this begs the question: where do all the memes come from? To dive deeper into this mystery, we sent a team of trained investigators from The Spectator (a.k.a. News writers) to unearth the source. They first went to Instagram but quickly gathered that many popular meme accounts were just posting stolen memes with overcompressed and unreadable captions.

From here, our team tracked many of the stolen memes back to Facebook where they again found thieving Meme accounts, with most of them pointing to Reddit as the source. When we questioned the Redditors, they immediately complained that Twitter members were taking down their memes. However, we found that those Twitter members claimed that said Redditors were taking their memes. After a long online dispute in our Discord server, both parties admitted to getting their memes from 4chan. Our researchers were way too scared to venture into the dark wastelands of /b/, so they enlisted our local edgelord, xXdarkjamooXx. Unfortunately, he could not source the 4chan memes’ origin, as the platform was overcrowded by furry smut and alt-right message boards. There also turned out to be a lead about a meme development group working out of Tumblr, but this claim was quickly debunked with the realization that no one had used Tumblr for years.

The trail ran cold and lasted like this for about six months. But suddenly, on March 28, the research team received a Facebook Messenger Call from a user called “Anonymous.” Here is the transcript:

(Anonymous): Yo, just wanted to tell y’all to stay off this case. It goes deeper than you could possibly know, and if you keep pushing, there will be consequences.

(Research): What are you talking about?

(Anonymous) You can’t mess with memes. If you do, there will be payback.

(Research): Sir, we closed that case six months ago. Who is this?

(Anonymous): I have used means to conceal my identity.

(Research): Hold on, how are you making an anonymous Facebook call? That’s not a feature! Wait…

(Anonymous): I—uhh…

(Research): Ha! You know that renaming your Facebook profile to “Anonymous” won’t actually make your information anonymous, right? Wait, why do I have mutual friends with you? Someone named… Donna Gardener? I can’t beli—

*Anonymous has ended the call.*

Our team quickly tracked this user’s Facebook to an e-mail account, leading to an AOL Instant Messenger Archive, then a QR Code showing an IP address, which finally pointed to a suburban dwelling in rural Michigan. Our researchers quickly boarded the nearest flight to Detroit and then took a local bus to this location. They were greeted by a middle-aged woman who, after a short discussion, reluctantly let them in. She led them down the stairs of her home into the basement where the shocking truth was found: Gary. It was Gary all along. Who is Gary? Let him tell you:

“Hi, I’m Gary. I live in a basement, and, yeah, I make all the memes. All of them. I’m the only guy who makes them,” he said. “It started in 1998 when I found this really funny picture of a gremlin and put a caption under it saying, ‘When you’re all out of apples.’ It pretty much took off from there.”

So there you have it. Next time you’re scrolling through Reddit, and you see a hilarious Megamind meme, or your disgruntled aunt sends you a minion meme, or your friends on Discord joke about an ironic Among Us meme, keep in mind that it’s Gary. It’s all Gary.