“Some students feel everything is funny, except when it is about themselves”

“Some students feel everything is funny, except when it is about themselves”

Student behind the popular Memestricht has become a well-known face

04-10-2023 · Interview

Students who want to take a photograph with him, being recognised by professors: with his popular Instagram page Memestricht – which at its height had some twenty thousand followers – law student Kevin Mousa became a well-known face within UM the past few years. But there are drawbacks too: “I received messages from people who wrote that they would ‘do me in’ if they met me.”

Many university cities already had one: a popular page with memes – joking images and videos, where the humour is often in the repetition and identifiability – of local student life. Why hasn’t Maastricht got one yet, Kevin Mousa (who was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Germany and France) wondered at the end of 2018. “As a fan of memes. I thought that was such a shame. So, I decided to create an Instagram page myself: Memestricht.”

It was successful, because with more than 15 thousand followers, you can certainly say that the page has become a household word among Maastricht students. “At one point, there were even 18 thousand, but if you don’t post anything in a busy period, the number quickly drops,” says Mousa. On the street and at the university, he is frequently recognised as ‘that guy from Memestricht’. “Especially by students, who sometimes even want to take a selfie with me. But every now and again, there are also lecturers who stare at me during a lecture and afterwards tell me that they sometimes watch the memes.”

Not that it is about the attention for him, says Mousa, he primarily wants to entertain people. “For the first couple of years, nobody even knew who was behind Memestricht. That was quite funny, sometimes I heard students around me speculating about who it could be.” The mystery ended in 2021 when he posted video clips in which he himself featured. “Such clips, in TikTok style, were becoming more and more popular at the time and I had so many ideas. So, I thought, no more anonymity.”

Stereotypes

By now, the page features hundreds of memes, often with thousands of likes and dozens of reactions. They are about expensive student rooms, studying at the University Library, or taking exams in MECC, but also about the Dutch weather, carnival, and André Rieu. “I get inspiration from the experiences I have at the university or in the city, or from friends’ stories. As soon as I have an idea, I immediately sit at my laptop and post it.”

Sometimes the humour is in stereotypes, for example, that Belgians always talk too loudly in the University Library, or that only rich Germans study at SBE. “That sometimes takes some exploring: what do people like and what don’t they like? Fortunately, the reactions are mostly positive and the very ones who are ridiculed can also laugh about it.”

Death threats

But not all jokes go down well. In spring of this year, a video clip about the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) caused a lot of commotion. In it, you can see Mousa being chased by a police car with flashing lights and the text “If you say ‘that’s gay’ at FASoS”.

Mousa: “In my mind, it was pretty innocent and clearly a joke about the ‘cancel culture’. But ironically, it was this meme that provoked vehement reactions. People sent me DMs (private messages via Instagram, ed.) in which they called me discriminating or xenophobic, or they said they were going to report me to the university, because I should be kicked out. There were even some death threats, people were going to ‘do me in’ if they met me on the street.” Observant couldn’t see these messages; some of them, says Mousa, were removed afterwards by the senders and he deleted the rest himself, because he “didn’t want to see them anymore.”

Drawing the line

“Sometimes, it is difficult to estimate beforehand when you are crossing a line. If there are a lot of negative reactions, I often delete a meme. It is not my intention to hurt people. But in this case, I drew a line. I thought ‘What is taking things too far: my meme or those reactions’? Moreover, you can hate me, but then don’t follow me. It was only a small number of people who were fiercely rude; there were also a lot of positive reactions. I received dozens of DMs from people who wrote that they supported me and that I shouldn’t allow myself to be intimidated.”

He never considered stopping. “I was troubled by it in the beginning, but I never had any regrets. I also noticed that people write all kinds of stuff online, but ‘in real life’ they dare not say anything when they recognise me on the street. I decided that I had to learn to live with the fierce reactions on Instagram.”

Even though they appear more and more, he says. “But only in specific cases, especially when it is about FASoS and University College Maastricht (UCM). The reactions are often from students who, based on their profile, would be very tolerant and great advocates of freedom of speech. But apparently that only applies when your opinions fit in with theirs. I try to make memes about all faculties, study programmes and nationalities. As long as it is about others, it is funny, but when it is about themselves, it is not funny anymore.”

Successor

At the moment, Mousa is busy with the final touches to his master’s of European Law. Will he continue to make memes? He will, on TikTok, where he has another channel with video clips that not only focus on student life. But no longer for Memestricht, because he handed that page over to another student this summer. “Because I will most likely not be in Maastricht and at the university anymore.” His successor will remain anonymous (for the time being). “He also saw how fierce the reactions can be.”

Images: Memestricht, Simone Golob (illustrations)

Tags: memestricht,memes,cancel culture,fasos,death threats,students,instagram

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