The pandemic threw us into chaos. Time-specific meme accounts on Twitter helped me find a constant.

Max Kalnitz
·6 min read
Spongebob meme
Memes that get shared out weekly like this one helped people get through the pandemic. Nickelodeon
  • Twitter accounts like @CraigWeekend and @RiseMonday share the same meme at the same time every week.

  • They're funny and nostalgic and get tens of thousands of likes weekly.

  • Their repetitive nature helped replace some of the structure I lost during the pandemic.

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"Rise and shine sailers, it be Monday," reads a meme of a sleepy-eyed Mr. Krabs getting out of bed.

"What a week, huh?" says Captain Haddock in another. "Captain, it's Wednesday," Tintin replies.

If you're on Twitter as much as I am, chances are you're familiar with these meme accounts. At roughly the same time every week, these and hundreds of other day-specific memes are shared out into the Twitterverse. The same meme, at the same time, every week.

Each account has tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of followers, and their tweets are wildly popular. The most recent "Captain, it's Wednesday" tweet, for example, has over 23,000 retweets and 103,000 likes.

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I first noticed these kinds of tweets in late 2019. My friends and I would send each other a tweet shared every Saturday morning containing an 8-second clip of the dad from "Dexter's Laboratory" proclaiming, "Ah yes! Saturdays are made for dads. And dad's car."

It quickly snowballed into us each texting a line of the clip in a group message until we said the whole scene. It was a congratulatory ritual that we all looked forward to after making it through another week of graduate school.

As our fascination with the "Dexter's Lab" scene grew, I found it remarkable that there were thousands of people liking the same image every week. Sure, it's a lighthearted and nostalgic scene for kids who grew up on the iconic '90s show, but what made us continually like, and more curiously, look forward to such a simple online commodity each week?

Then, a year ago, the coronavirus pandemic hit the US.

People like these memes, I realized, because they provide structure and routine. They're a digital benchmark that lets people know, "Hey, you made it through another week." During a period in which time felt like a mysterious and imaginary concept, I began to rely on these yardsticks more and more.

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As the coronavirus spread, the world collectively lost any sense of routine or structure

For wide swaths of the population, there was no more going into the office, no more sending the kids to school, no more seeing friends or loved ones in person.

Many people, myself included, found themselves stuck in the doldrums at the beginning of the pandemic. Even though I was still in graduate school at the time and had a very clear schedule to follow, it felt like structure dissolved entirely. Weekdays felt like the weekend, and vice versa. There were many times I woke up uncertain about what day it was. It was the "time is a flat circle" joke come to life.

At some point during those early pandemic months, I started using these time-specific memes to replace the structure and routine I no longer felt like I had.

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On Monday, Mr. Krabs. On Wednesday, Tintin. On Thursday, Natasha Lyonne's character from "Russian Doll" smoking a cigarette and pondering "Thursday! What a concept." On Friday morning, Mr. Krabs saying, "Congratulations sailer. You made it to Friday!" and then later, a gif of an "SNL"-hosting Daniel Craig tepidly saying, "Ladies and gentleman, the Weeknd," that evening. On Saturday morning, the dad from "Dexter's Laboratory."

As the pandemic worsened I began to see more and more people retweeting accounts of this nature. Whereas before I only saw one, maybe two memes a week, I started seeing them almost daily. Soon I absorbed them into my own daily Twitter consumption and actually looked forward to seeing what new zany accounts might be created as the months dragged on.

And it wasn't just me who needed this structure, apparently. The pandemic became so disorienting that even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used meme-influenced PowerPoint slides asking "What day is today?" Eventually, slides announcing "Today is... " appeared during his daily briefings.

Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University who focuses on social media, told me these memes fall into the mutual aid category: People create and/or look to these accounts not only to share funny stuff, but to take care of each other and spread joy during a difficult time.

"During this time, what we were experiencing was so absurd," Grygiel said. "And so I think that is why we might gravitate to responding in this way - like, yes, it's the same meme every single day because nothing has changed from the prior week.

"There was an absolute absurdity to the governmental response, there was an absurdity to the human condition during that time in where we were at because we did not even have the basics covered," they continued. "I think again, people leverage what they know, prior trends, and I think these meme creators realized that this would resonate. And it did."

It's unclear when the first Twitter account of this nature came into existence, but the phenomenon is nothing new

The internet has been trying to help everyone through the week for quite some time.

There are prehistoric memes like Grumpy Cat shouting "No!" to a picture of Rebecca Black with the caption "Friday Friday!" and a shouting King Leonidas from the movie "300" with a caption that reads "THIS IS MONDAY!!!!"

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Grygiel said these memes stemmed from a simple, universal feeling - a communal excitement about the weekend or a trepidation about work on Mondays. People exchanged them with friends, or posted them on forums like Reddit where they could find a community of like-minded people experiencing the same feelings.

Even though my friends and I stopped sending each other the "Dexter's Lab" meme in the early weeks of the pandemic, every Saturday when I see the tweet, I still smile - it's impossible to think of anything else than my buddies and I saying the quote in unison.

Through the lens of the pandemic, these memes are here to remind us that we're all going through this together, one redundant week after the other.

Who knows if we'll view these memes the same way when the pandemic is over. But for now, I look forward to seeing my memes each week, certain they'll bring a moment of joy, even if it's only temporary.

Read the original article on Insider