A pair of graduates has created a Facebook page within the last three weeks that has sparked conversation about the recent teen deaths in the community thanks to a posting from a reader.
The Facebook page, titled Lake Forest and Lake Bluff Memes, received a posting Wednesday from Michael Demian Lown, who took an existing meme and inserted the wording, “Wants to Build a 5 Million Dollar Field, Won’t Drop a Dime on Suicide”.
The posting has generated more than 100 comments and page creator Andrew Morrissette, a 2008 graduate, even posted a poll to let his fans determine whether to leave it up or not.
As of Friday, supporters wanted to keep the posting by a 101-37 margin.
What's in a Meme?
Morrissette, an economics major at Northern Illinois University, said he originally created the Facebook page based on a similar meme page at the DeKalb school. Internet memes are often innocent photos or graphics that the user can put their own spin on with creative wording.
“I have thought memes are quite funny for a while now,” Morrissette said. “Though sometimes they can be misinterpreted, they poke innocent fun at things that hit many people close to home. I have found personal connections with many memes others have created in the past. They are not for the purpose of laughing at the town, but rather laughing with the town.”
Morrissette watched the NIU version collect more than 2,000 likes within the first two days of its posting.
“I was hoping that our page would receive a similar following, and for a much smaller town it has grown relatively well,” said Morrissette, whose page has 809 likes.
The original premise was to have alumni, students, and residents use popular memes to poke fun at some of the more memorable places, situations and experiences from growing up in the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff area, Morrissette said.
But the conversation took a decisive turn after Lown’s post just a few days after student to be struck and killed by a train in less than three months. He was preceded by and . Only Hussain’s death has been confirmed officially as a suicide by the Lake County Coroner’s Office.
Quick to React
Some commenters quickly bashed Lown’s post, but more and more came out in support because it created a forum for past and present students and others to talk about the string of deaths that has the community reeling.
“I was mildly surprised at the negative reaction, because before I reposted it to the main page, the picture already had 70 likes,” Morrissette said. “I thought that was a good indicator that people saw something in it. I think it opened up a debate that may not have been started otherwise. Whether people want it removed or not, it still has had an impact, and has shown what people in the community really think about the incidents.”
The comments have ranged from pointing a blaming finger at for not doing enough to others who believe it is too easy to target the school.
Commenter Alex Flagstad wanted the posting to remain “because then people like me will read this thread and be amazed at how the LFHS student body (and others) can band together and discuss things like this. While LFHS should ALSO provide an outlet for discussion about suicide, this meme has done a wonderful job of providing that forum in the meantime.”
Commenter Peter Gundling hopes the school has a plan when classes resume Monday.
“I don't want this to be like Will's death, where they just said that counselors are available,” he wrote. “I want them to at least have the school attend some sort of seminar to address that they are trying to stop this and describe what they are doing. I will be disappointed if they just make a brief announcement or something about it and then act like everything is status quo.”
Morrissette and 2007 graduate Bear Christensen, who has assisted in moderating the page, have stayed out of the conversation other than to remind commenters who did not like the meme to vote in the poll.
“It’s not that I am hesitant to voice my opinion,” Morrissette said, “I just don't know enough about the situation and how the towns are reacting internally, because I spend most of my time at college. With the creation of this page, I could not predict current events that might get used as memes, which is one of the interesting things about them. Memes get started randomly and spread throughout the Internet.”
Facebook Creates Conversations
Morrissette cannot recall a similar conversation when he attended . However, Facebook was still in its infancy and not the social media magnet it now is.
“There weren't places like it for open discussions to brew, and I believe that Facebook can sometimes break down a wall for much less filtered debate being that it’s on the Internet and not in town meetings and such,” Morrissette said. “In these environments voices may get overlooked, whereas on Facebook everything is out there for everyone to see.”