What do Chilean photographers, popping dolphins, galaxy clusters and artisan foods have in common?
Is it a) they are all “organisms in charge,” b) they all have “gritty, comical and romantic voices,” c) they have all dabbed at least once, or d) they, as well as the other multiple-choice options, are fully understood only by the sophomores and juniors who took the 2016 PSAT on Oct. 19?
The correct answer is d.
Unless, of course, you didn’t actually read the passages on the test (which a surprisingly large amount of Twitter users have openly admitted to not doing).[sidebar title=”Don Juan Ribero” align=”left” background=”on” border=”all” shadow=”off”]
The first story of the reading section was an excerpt from Isabel Allende’s “Portrait in Sepia.” The main character, Aurora del Valle, desires to be the apprentice of photographer Don Juan Ribero. He refuses her grandmother Paulina’s cash offering for his services, saying that he wants talent and not money.[/sidebar]
But wait! I’m technically bound by a contract that I signed on the test not to tell that – or any other information that appeared on the test – to anyone.
And because of those contracts and legal obligations, the phenomenon known as “PSAT memes” is a perfect blend of age-old teenage antics and the era of social media.
And it has created something unique.
First, I’ll explain what a “meme” is in case anyone reading this is above the age of 30.
As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, a meme is “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.”
Memes – images with short, mostly humorous captions alluding to some event or feeling – permeate the internet and social media platforms, referencing anything from cats to presidential candidates.
Since the dawn of time, teenagers have loved being rebellious and seeing how far they can go without being caught.
Thus the PSAT created the perfect opportunity for rebellion: agreeing to the terms and conditions.
Maybe even without writing “I promise not to discuss. . . the contents of this test,” teens would still talk.
Nonetheless, by transforming the act of talking about the test into a taboo, it offers an enticing opportunity to see how far teens can go.
About two hours after the PSAT was taken nationwide, there were already over 141,000 tweets and retweets under the hashtags #PSAT and #PSAT2016.
And (not so) shockingly, they did contain content related to the test.
Now to be fair to my fellow teenagers, there wasn’t any information on what the correct answers were.
Instead the tweets and memes were a way to collectively mock the sometimes bizarre reading passages, questions or answer choices on what was, in fact, quite a serious test.[sidebar title=”Toadfish and Popping Dolphins” align=”left” background=”on” border=”all” shadow=”off”]
One reading excerpt was on a study of toadfish and their cortisol production levels. According to the study, toadfish were more stressed, and as a result produced more cortisol while hearing dolphin pops, the sounds of their predators.[/sidebar]
Think of this online hullabaloo as a massive, national virtual support group, in which all members can just sit back and laugh without anyone else really knowing what the fuss is all about.
And if you aren’t in the loop, you will have no idea why people are typing ? after a post with the words “Don Juan Ribero” and “lunch” on it.
It’s a fascinating social situation; call it the nation’s largest group of inside jokes.
And it doesn’t stop with Twitter.
Instagram, Snapchat, messaging platforms and any other ways that teens communicate were, by the end of two days, saturated with these inside jokes that are technically illegal.
The other perplexing thing about this event is how people seem to be more free online.
During the short breaks in between the various sections of the PSAT, if anyone (myself included) even started talking about or vaguely referencing a question, other sophomores would say to stop talking about it because “we signed a contract.”
But afterward, searching for and sharing PSAT memes with your friends seems to be fine, even liberating.
Interestingly, there were even memes about looking at the memes, including screenshots of tweets asking @CollegeBoard about the memes.
That fleeting quality of these memes made them funny to my friends and me.
Yes, yes, bring me to the College Board so I may confess. I, Chardonnay Needler, hereby acknowledge having laughed at and enjoyed these memes.
I furthermore acknowledge sharing these with my friends and referencing them in casual conversation.
For better or for worse, the majority of my friends’ and my jokes during the 48 hours after that test were related to, well, the test.
I genuinely thought they were hilarious. Now they seem a little cheesy.
—By Chardonnay Needler