How a fake Tumblr Meme Went Viral

When it comes to surreal memes, no one does it better than Tumblr. The latest is inexplicable on its surface, and only makes a modicum of sense when you find out where it came from: An influx of aquatic image macros with the slogan, “There are many benefits to being a marine biologist.”

Over the past month, this meme has spread from Tumblr to Facebook and Reddit, and it’s basically the polar opposite of relatable content. That’s because the meme literally began in someone’s dream. The origin point was Tumblr user @pixellecutie, who on Aug. 22 posted the first “marine biologist” meme and wrote, “Had a dream where this became the new meme for a bit.” This proved to be catnip for Tumblr’s neo-dadaist sense of humor, leading to a thread of copycats.

Every social media platform has its own tone of popular memes, from Facebook’s banal “share if you agree” content to Twitter’s repetitive pop-culture threads. But while the biggest Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram memes are geared toward self-expression, Tumblr prefers stuff that makes no sense whatsoever. (The marine biologist meme did quickly catch on with the weird side of Facebook, however, spreading via the Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends page.)

@pixellecutie’s subconscious tapped into Tumblr’s love of pointless nonsense. Marine biology is a niche profession with no obviously relatable “benefits,” so people could have fun reinterpreting what the meme actually meant. It also held obvious appeal to Tumblr’s community of people who like to sexualize fish-monsters.

As per the typical lifecycle of a Tumblr meme, this one has already inspired its own spinoffs: the disadvantages of being a geologist, the neutral qualities of being a chemist, and other increasingly arcane remixes of the genre. And in case you’re wondering, this isn’t even the first time Tumblr has turned someone’s dream into a ubiquitous and inexplicable meme. The only social media platform that directly plumbs your unconscious mind.

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*First Published: Sep 23, 2021, 11:40 am CDT

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

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