AMERICA’S FRESHMAN

TNH talks with UNH’s reluctant internet sensation

By Joel Kost

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, February 20, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UNH Meme

Courtesy Photo

Griffin Kiritsy in 2007.

UNH Memes 2

Julie Fortin/Staff

UNH student Griffin Kiritsy gained web-wide stardom when a picture of him as a freshman taken in 2007 (above) began circulating last summer as the background for the popular “college freshman” internet meme. Kiritsy is now a senior (below).

Chances are you've seen or heard of UNH's latest trend: the UNH Memes Facebook page. The Internet sensation, which has generated over 3,300 "likes" since its creation on Feb. 10, is the campus's hub for posting hundreds of memes that relate to the university.

One of the more commonly used photos on the memes page is a picture of a college student wearing a UNH sweatshirt with headphones and a cell phone.

The individual in this photo is Griffin Kiritsy, a senior English major at the University of New Hampshire. The picture of him that is now being used across the country was actually taken four years ago when he was a freshman.

Kiritsy was interviewed and photographed for an article in Reader's Digest about technology affecting people's everyday lives. It was featured in both the print and online version of the magazine.

The magazine sent a photographer to Durham who called him an hour before they met up to let him know to wear a UNH shirt. Kiritsy, who hadn't been in school for more than two months, didn't own one. So he turned to his sister, a student at the time. All she owned was a sweatshirt that read "UNH field hockey."

So in the picture, he placed his right arm over the words to try to prevent them from being seen.

"I didn't really want my picture taken," Kiritsy said. "It was a Wednesday afternoon and there were literally hundreds of people walking around. It went in the magazine and I didn't think anything of it. It basically just stayed there for three years."

It wasn't until last summer that Kiritsy's image was discovered on the Internet and posted on quickmeme.com, a website used for posting memes.

"My brother's friend from California noticed it first," Kiritsy said.  "Last summer it was on websites like Chive and Funny or Die.  It was popular for a while, but then it died off for a semester."

As defined by dictionary.com, a meme is a term coined in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. It is "an idea or element of social behavior passed on through generations in a culture, especially by imitation."

In today's society a meme is a term used in popular culture to describe a picture or video that circulates through the Internet. Common memes include Success Kid, Philosoraptor and Insanity Wolf.

As it turns out, the caption used for the online photograph in the Reader's Digest article was "college freshman." Kiritsy believes that someone was simply trying to make a college-themed meme and when they searched for college freshman his image showed up.

Dubbed the College Freshman, Kiritsy's meme was originally used to describe what a "typical freshman" would do, such as go home on weekends and run to class.

"The worst part is that 90 percent of those memes don't apply to me," Kiritsy said. "I never ran to class."

After losing its popularity for a few months, the meme suddenly became viral on the Internet, reaching not only the UNH campus but also several others, such as Purdue University.

Instead of just poking fun at freshmen, the meme now covers popular topics at UNH – some of which include long lines at Holloway Commons and different majors.

"It's a weird experience," Kiritsy said. "At first it wasn't a big deal, but now people are coming up to me and are like, ‘hey, you're that guy.' It's really awkward."

The UNH meme has recently spanned over many other images. Many popular photos include still shots from films such as Lord of the Rings, Inception, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

But what exactly makes these UNH memes so popular? Both Kiritsy and Benjie Chiampa, a mechanical engineering major, agree that the memes are something all students can relate to.

"We can all relate to a hefty majority of the memes, like the madness that goes on at HoCo at 12:30, or the terror of just leaning back in a dorm room chair," Chiampa said. "The memes page is great way to show what the students really feel about life at UNH, whether it be positive or negative."

While the UNH Memes Facebook page has been receiving immense popularity, many students question whether or not the trend will last. UNH student Margaret Gynan believes that the memes will shortly die out.

Chiampa, however, is hopeful that the memes will always have a topic to relate to.

"The trend of the memes might die down for a little bit, but I think that they will still be a popular thing," Chiampa said. "As long as something funny, unfair or just common activities happen at UNH, there will be someone to make a meme about it."

Despite the unwanted attention on the streets, Kiritsy finds the popularity of his picture amusing.

"I think it's hilarious," Kiritsy said. "There are a million images of college freshmen online, and they picked me."

Comments

14 comments
Anonymous
Sat Sep 15 2012 16:59
+ you got the guy!
- you don't ask him any obvious question, aside from "how do you feel about it?"

what about the fact that most of them are negative, like about not being able to drink a lot or trying weed for the first time, etc

Anonymous
Sun Mar 11 2012 01:27
I feel like the article is about that particular school's meme page. A lot of colleges and universities have "__ College Meme Page" fan pages on Facebook, where students adapt common Internet memes or image macros to fit with jokes about their college. The piece talks specifically about their school, rather than the whole Internet, because the piece is only about their school, and the last person quoted doesn't mean that memes will die out but rather that this page will probably lose interest or popularity.
Annie
Fri Feb 24 2012 11:22
I do not think this article is poorly written, per se. However, it is very poorly researched, and as other commenters have noted, the author does not seem to understand the scope of memes across the internet
Anonymous
Wed Feb 22 2012 16:17
Wow, this author has no idea the scope of the internet. The internet meme this student is featured on "UNH Memes" goes very far beyond a mere 3000 likes -- the meme instead has been used around the world and back on sites like Quickmeme (and then featured on Reddit, et al.) and on university meme sites around the world. Do some research!
Anonymous
Wed Feb 22 2012 12:04
"In today's society a meme is a term used in popular culture to describe a picture or video that circulates through the Internet. Common memes include Success Kid, Philosoraptor and Insanity Wolf."

This are not memes, these are examples of "Image Macros". Use the terms correctly

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 23:20
I hope 90% of the memes don't apply to him, as I seem to remember him being killed of around, let's say, 90% of the time. Most of the rest of the time he was just compared to College Senior. Also, writer is not only incomprehensible, but doesn't understand internet if he believes that people call this the "UNH meme" or 3,000+ likes is an internet sensation, or that the internet is only composed of UNH and surrounding colleges. Last person quoted is dumb, meme will not "end soon".

tl;dr: College Freshman will live forever. College Senior is sexy (not College Freshman as a senior, College Senior).

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 22:48
Wow...This article is ridiculously poorly written. Also, the author (and everyone interviewed) does not seem to understand the internet at all. However, the kid does seem to be *exactly* what College Freshman symbolizes, so I suppose he was well-picked. No mention of reddit at all is sad, and 3k likes is not a lot. I also did not understand close the half of what the author was saying, so to clarify: author thinks that this meme only exists at UNH and nearby colleges? Author is a "staff writer", meaning, still at school, yet does not now what internet is?

I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

Redditor
Tue Feb 21 2012 22:46
"Thumbs up to this guy for taking it in stride.... massive thumbs down to the author of this article who has absolutely no grasp on the subject matter."

Impressed by Kiritsy. Happy to know that this guy is doing well and graduating. Disappointed in the lack of content.

Why not post examples of the meme for context? Why not explain Reddit and educate others about this cultural phenomenon being covered? Why not say "upvotes" instead of "likes"? Why not Zoidberg?

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 22:16
"...massive thumbs down...".? Please do tell us all of your infinite wisdom on the subject.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 20:27
Thumbs up to this guy for taking it in stride.... massive thumbs down to the author of this article who has absolutely no grasp on the subject matter.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 17:53
REDDIT
Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 17:33
I know nobody will believe me, but I'm the person who started this meme. I'm sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused you. I started the meme a few weeks before my first day of college, I opened up google and searched for "college freshman" and the rest was history. I guess I didn't expect it to take off the way it did or inspire spinoff memes. KYM doesn't list my post as the first, even though mine was posted on July 24th on reddit as opposed to the July 26th post on quickmeme they credit as being first. I made the meme in hopes of making a little joke of the awkwardness I, as a new college freshman, would face much like everyone else who ever went to college.

Proof to anyone who doubts me:

www.reddit.com/r/AdviceAnimals/comments/iye4b/college_freshman_had_his_first_day/

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 16:46
"In today's society a meme is a term used in popular culture to describe a picture or video that circulates through the Internet."

No, that's wrong. You're talking about an "internet meme", not a "meme". The original use of the word 'meme' still is 100% valid and in use.

Anonymous
Tue Feb 21 2012 16:03
A lot of the meme can be credited to Reddit. More about it is documented on KYM:
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/uber-frosh-college-freshman
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