Memes with purpose: Q&A with LC Affirmations

LC’s popular Instagram page sheds light on college suffering, absurdity through positive online assertions

  • The words "PSA: If you attended the Sellwood Stumble test for COVID, there's been multiple cases from students who've attended" on a background of trees and grass.
  • The words "I am the most garishly dressed person on the entire campus" above a still from Our Flag Means Death.
  • The words "Our Patron alumni, Ms. Monica Lewinsky will protect me" above an image of Monica Lewinsky pasted in front of a building on campus.

ONE INSTAGRAM account has brought affirmations to the forefront of Lewis & Clark’s online community, @lcaffirmations. Gen Z, a generation marred by social struggle, mental illness and global unrest, has adopted the self-help affirmation as a means of satire. The meme page @affirmations has nearly a million followers on Instagram. Some of the account’s most popular recent posts include text reading “I am Sexy Slug Season” over the backdrop of a young woman clad in ankle boots and skinny jeans sitting beneath an autumnal-colored tree, as well as “I am not always very depressed’’ overlaid on a photo of Taylor Swift.

Many smaller accounts adopt its blown out, surreal style to put a positive spin on anxiety-inducing events, including @lcaffirmations,. I had a chance to speak with the students behind this account, and we discussed everything from overcrowding at LC and COVID-19 policy, to silly submissions and memes they still wish to make. The admins wished to remain pseudonymous, and will be referred to with letter-based aliases. This interview is edited for length and clarity.

App-Singer: I love your page so much. I really like how you both satirize and celebrate LC culture. Most recently, I noticed that you posted a COVID-19 warning in the form of a meme. Can you talk a little about the process and ethics behind that decision, and why you decided to do that?

L: Someone from the Associated Student Body (ASB) had reached out and said, “Hey, we can’t really post this information on a page that’s affiliated with the school, since it was an off-campus party and we don’t really know what was going on.” So they asked if we minded posting something about it … I really don’t know if this is the ethics behind it, but the school is no longer sending out how many people got COVID every week. Last year, they had it changed to where they’re no longer counting the at-home tests on the school’s website. That’s kind of sus(pect). So I was just like, “We’ll go ahead and post something.” So that way, people are aware that they should take a test and that there is a superspreader event.

App-Singer:  I know throughout the memes that you all have created, there’s been a lot of ones that are sort of going against the grain of the establishment, which I think is super cool. What are your opinions on more controversial aspects of the school and aspects of student loving? And how do you make these darker aspects into memes?

M: I feel like there’s always going to be issues at any institution. (Our account is) a very honest review of the school because people just kind of tell us everything they’re feeling whether it’s positive or negative. We do tread lightly regarding the negative experiences and I feel like we talk to each other about stuff we are curious about posting. I feel like (the account) is kind of a good way to deal with things that are annoying us about the institution. We can not only call out and say, oh, this is annoying, but also, like, cope with it by making it kind of a funny thing. It’s relatable to be suffering in college. I feel like it’s just another thing that we can make commentary about.

App-Singer: What are some of the less controversial, funny, absurd requests you’ve gotten for affirmations in recent times? 

L: There was one time a professor went barefoot in class, and someone actually sent me a photo they took, and sent the account the photo and was like, you should make an affirmation about this. And we were like, sure.

M: I think one of the upcoming things that might (come up in submissions) might be a little bit controversial … But there is a pub opening on campus and I’m hoping that we don’t get too many affirmations about getting absolutely sloshed because I feel like that’s not the point of the pub being open on campus. It’s a safer alternative to going out off campus and having to get an Uber back. But I feel like there’s gonna be an onslaught of … ‘Oh, my God, I will not throw up in Templeton at the Temple Bar.’ I mean, that’s good. I hope they don’t, but I feel like (those submissions will) definitely happen regardless.

App-Singer: Thank you all so much for talking. I have one more question. What aspects of your student life this year so far have you wanted to make affirmation memes about?

M: My partner is studying abroad. (My affirmation is) “I won’t miss them too much.”

L: “I will find my passion.”

S: I mean, I had a pretty difficult year last year. Coming back, I was just kind of nervous, but also very cautiously optimistic. My first few weeks at college have been pretty amazing. I love my classes, I enjoy my room, I’m making more friends. I’m just in a good place and have a good relationship with school. I would want to affirm that, “My cautious optimism was correct in that I’ll continue to have a very good year.”

The idea of focusing on the positive is often easier said than done, but irony and humor can transform the negative into the entertaining. Memes can be a great tool for social change, for better or worse. LC  is not perfect, which is something the admins of @lcaffirmations are aware of. At the end of the day, if we are able to laugh at our shortcomings instead of letting them consume us, we will all be better off. Comment “Mossy Log” to affirm.

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