If I were to rate my stress level, I’d be at around Britney’s 2007 meltdown. Thanks, MATH-114.

Let’s point out the obvious for a second: College is stressful. We all worked really hard to get here. We all want to succeed, whatever that means to you. We all chose to be at Penn, a school that fosters excellence in and demands it from its students. This stress and intensity is a necessary part of the college equation and life. I get it, I embrace it and I deal with it. 

While it’s definitely important for students to partially subscribe to the “just suck it up and work” mentality, when the stress gets to be too much, suppressing your feelings to maybe get two more hours of studying done becomes unproductive and unhealthy. I would know. I’ve been down that road. And trust me: It isn’t fun. 

Especially now, in the thick of exam season, there needs to be a release. If you haven’t figured out your release, I would suggest exercising, but that takes too long and is way too much effort. I would suggest watching Netflix, but that could turn into an all-night binge session too quickly. My vote is looking at memes.

For those of you who somehow don’t know what I’m talking about, a meme is “an element of culture or system of behavior that is considered to be passed from one individual to another” via a funny image, video or piece of text. Memes can be shared more privately from person to person or publicly through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

First and foremost, memes take the seriousness out of any situation. Part of what’s so incredible and unbelievably creative about memes is how well they reflect and caricature what’s going on in the world, both in current events and cultural norms. Sure, it’s a little cult-ish, and sure, memes do have the potential to really offend people — just look at the students whose acceptances were rescinded from Harvard because of their private meme group — but that’s bound to be the case with the extremes of any form of expression. 

This precision inherent in most viral memes fosters a great sense of community and is, by all objective standards, comedic gold. Not only have I made and bonded with friends over memes, but there’s a comfort in knowing you are not the only one going through a certain situation. It’s reassuring and, dare I say it, externally validating in that you debunk in a hilarious way the isolating thought that you’re doing something socially wrong. A community is literally formed out of our mutual suffering.

Meme groups like the Official Unofficial Penn Squirrel Catching Club and Student Problems are two perfect examples. In the former, the memes are more specific to making fun of what Penn students are going through, whereas the latter focuses more on problems that all students in high school and college face. The mere relatability of these memes makes these seemingly unbearable and stressful experiences a little less intimidating. 

A benefit of having these meme groups, in addition to normalizing student struggles, is that you can tag your friends in them. Comments like “us right now” allow for further bonding over situations. On the surface, this can seem absurd and a little silly, but relating to another person in this manner can strengthen your relationship with that person by laughing over something you’re both going through. 

When you see a meme or your friend tags you in one, you get a temporary release from the intense environment in which we live. It’s almost like coming up to breathe for a quick minute or two from all the work you’ve been doing. And a meme break really shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, so don’t worry about losing any valuable studying time.

This is not to say that stress should be blindly accepted or that individual struggles are less valid just because a lot of people are going through similar experiences. If you feel like you need help managing stress, there are resources for it; memes are by no means a solution to the problems academic pressure and isolation create. However, sometimes, a little comedy can be cathartic, if not medicinal. 

After going to bed at 3 a.m. because of an intense study session, maybe try waking up a little later and smelling the memes. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


JACQUELYN SUSSMAN is a College freshman from Westport, Conn. Her email address is jasuss@sas.upenn.edu. "The Objectivist" usually appears every other Wednesday.

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