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CMU created Facebook page "Zoom Memes for Quaranteens" goes viral

Social distancing has scattered college students across every corner of the Earth. Despite being physically apart from our universities, we are all united by one global platform: Zoom.

Carnegie Mellon’s decision to move classes online was one that many students were expecting, but were still surprised by. In a group chat, recent School of Computer Science (SCS) graduate Shreyan Bakshi and SCS rising sophomore Mehul Agarwal exchanged memes about now attending university on Zoom.

“We sort of realized that there is a market for such memes, and we started a Facebook group as a joke,” Agarwal recalled. “Turns out, a lot of people connected to that.”

Since its inception on March 11, the Facebook group “Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens” has attracted over half a million members. Various publications such as The New York Times and The Atlantic have taken notice of how college students are using memes to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

Although the group inevitably touches on COVID-19 and its consequences, it maintains a lighthearted haven for members to bond over. Agarwal summarizes one of the page’s biggest themes: “we all are under the same institution: Zoom University!”

“Zoom University” refers to the phenomena of colleges across the country flocking towards the remote conference platform. Students in 2020 are trying to finish the academic year with as much structure and normalcy as possible. Quarantining brings out chaos, irregular sleep cycles, and — of course — cringeworthy TikTok dances. We may lack a physical campus and the quirky traditions we would normally practice, but Quaranteens have established an extensive student body and a campus culture in a matter of days.

With thousands of memes on the page, it's hard to pick a standout favorite. Agarwal highlights one that he found from another college meme page, “UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens,” that he later reshared. The meme is a galaxy brain meme that suggests that the ultimate way to make a move into a girl's heart is not through text or Instagram DMs, but through Zoom private messages. "I think one of the memes that was the impetus of starting the group is definitely on my all time favorites," he recollects sentimentally.

Aside from lighthearted memes, the group has raised over $4,000 for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP). The organization helps donors make disaster-related giving decisions to help optimize available resources. The donations collected through “Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens” will be used towards the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund. The organization is supporting nonprofits to help protect vulnerable populations. They are also working with non-government organizations to support healthcare workers, particularly vulnerable individuals, and other important hygienic work.

Despite social distancing and its potentially isolating effects, Quaranteens have shown that a virtual community can come out of a lonely time. “I’ve realized, looking at how the group is growing after each refresh, that humans are social animals,” Agarwal reflects. This realization fuels the positive energy that runs throughout the group. In a time that could easily turn to despair, “Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens” provides an outlet for students to remain optimistic. Moving forward, Agarwal states, “I just hope that we continue to do the same throughout these challenging times.”