Examples of ancient memes from @OldMemeArchive on Twitter.

Embrace Tradition: The Driving Factors Behind Meme Nostalgia With @OldMemeArchive

This year hasn’t exactly been the most exciting for memes. We’re over a quarter of the way through here, and the state of the meme economy in 2021 hasn’t changed all that much since the end of 2020. It’s inevitably been shaken, but few strong new formats have managed to break through to the mainstream. As it stands, this year’s memes have, so far, served as an extension of and sequel to 2020’s — more of the same, but with much less glamour.

2020 showing 2021 around the workplace.

We’ve swapped out Trump memes for Biden memes, we’ve continued to meme the pandemic, and still haven’t moved on from Among Us. There have been some exciting memeable and meme-adjacent events, like the NFT craze, the Meghan Markle interview, and the GameStop short squeeze, but none of these brought with them potentially classic or even memorable meme formats. Rather than mine for new gold, memers in 2021 seem comfortable, even eager, to recycle and repurpose formats from the past — ushering in what might be the first true wave of meme nostalgia.

No account demonstrates this growing wave better than Twitter’s @OldMemeArchive, AKA Ancient Memes, (AKA switch1e on his personal YouTube account) an account that gained over 500,000 followers in a month only sharing memes eight years or older (2013 or older at the time of writing). That means lots of cringeworthy image macros, obscure Rage Comics, and the absolute best of the rawr XD days of the web. We reached out to Switch1e in the DMs for an insider scoop on 2021’s meme nostalgia wave.

Following ancient memes @OldMemeArchive memes and posts from a forgotten era of the internet O dms open E Joined January 2021 1 Following 529.9K Followers

“I was inspired to run [Ancient Memes] because I felt like there were more and more people who were nostalgic about Rage Comics and other old memes and there was going to be a major revival in the coming months,” Switch1e told us. “I have some connections within the whole Twitter comedy meme scene, for lack of a better term, but the insane success it had the first few days was something I'd never seen before. It's certainly calmed down in the past couple of weeks, but within the first week or so, it was already almost at 300,000 followers. I expected it to maybe get that far after a few months.”

The nostalgic meme wave started around the end of 2020 when formats like Cover Yourself In Oil and They Don't Know I'm X both hinging on old Rage or Wojak Comics, started to rise in popularity. Notably, around this time, an influx of Derpina-related fan art started popping up across the web, and the Trollface began coming back into fashion through schizoposting and uber-ironic trolling formats — an art that’s being consistently refined and perfected on subreddits like /r/he_comes. An embrace tradition meme featuring a row of Rage Comics vs. Wojaks started making the rounds, further reminding users of the memes-gone-by, as well as an image of a Trollface bursting through a Wojak’s face alongside the text, “I’m almost free, run,” as if trying to force an oncoming storm. But why now?


“I think it's because a lot of us who enjoyed these memes when we were little kids are now becoming adults and starting to grow nostalgic. There was a point in time where we considered Rage Comics and image macros to be lame, uncool, and cringeworthy, but I think that's passed and we're beginning to move away from our teenage cynicism, and we've started to look back at them fondly. That, along with the fact that before accounts like myself, they were basically dead. Rage Comics really peaked between 2011-2013, but once 2014 passed they pretty much disappeared from any mainstream "hip" meme platform overnight. In 2015 and 2016 they were seen as cringeworthy and uncool, and the only people who still laughed at them were out of touch."

Switch1e illustrates this by mentioning the rise of "corporate memes," meaning entities like Wendy's and Burger King using memes in their marketing. This was bashed as tryhard and cringey for years, only recently becoming a common tactic and something users don't even bat an eye at anymore. Now, if you're a brand without a meme presence, you stand to fall behind the competition at least to a degree.

"I distinctly remember being 13 or 14 and having my dad show me an image macro meme he had made, and I just kind of politely smiled but thought to myself, ‘that stuff is super dead’. But that period has passed, and Rage Comics and stuff from that time have pretty much lost any ownership. They weren't seen as the language of cool meme-connoisseurs OR out-of-touch gen-Xers or boomers. They were just completely unused, and I think that gave people an excuse to revisit them in an ironic way.”


Switch1e’s comment sections (and more obviously the like/retweet ratios) stand as a particularly interesting gauge of how well certain memes hold up. Under nearly every meme, you’ll see followers giving their stamps of approval or disapproval, deeming the memes to either hold up or not. You’ll also see plenty of updated references to classic memes: perhaps new, more ironic versions of that meme, or other classic memes that follow the format.

“The most successful old memes are usually stuff that is more unique than normal Rage Comics or image macros,” Switch1e said. “If I post a simple Rage Comic or image macro, they honestly don't usually do so well. The ones that get shared are the really special ones or the ones that somehow aged well or poorly when looked at today. I think that a lot of modern memes are absurdist in nature, while memes around the height of Rage Comics were a lot less grounded in surrealism. I mean, we're now just getting out of a trend where people find literally anything that resembles a character from ‘Among Us’ and it's considered peak comedy. Memes that were made back then that resemble that type of humor are often considered ‘ahead of their time,’ or some followers just accuse me of making them up on my own.”

peach time

As Switch1e said, a good portion of web users today are the same people that made these old memes, they’re just older. They’ve grown and experienced a lot of different cycles of internet humor, offering an entirely new lens on these memes that actually makes it easier to appreciate their simplicity. These days, memers often have to stretch a long way to hit meme gold.
Back in 2010, it was as easy as making a Rage Comic where a peach appears out of thin air, a meme that didn’t even get the full appreciation it deserved outside of niche Tumblr posts until years later when ironic meme culture sunk its claws into every corner of the scene. When Peach Time was first posted to Reddit in 2013, it received zero upvotes and was bashed as being unfunny. When Switch1e posted Peach Time in January 2021, it received nearly 9,000 retweets and 73,000 likes, with users praising it as “iconic” and applying modern-day contexts to the joke. Not only does this show (on a small scale at least) how an old meme can come up from the graveyard and suddenly find success via new contexts, it also offers us a potential look into the future of our modern meme formats.

“You can see some absurdist memes going through that life cycle right now,” Switch1e told us. “Remember the deep-fried meme craze of 2016-2018? That was a point in time where popular memes became so nonsensical that they just took everything to its logical extreme. That stuff never went through a serious commercialization phase like Rage Comics and image macros did, but they still have fallen off from serious use. I think that’s the fate you can expect for most modern meme formats."

Wake up! It's 2012 bro! Covid, 2020, no iPhone charger? Wdym it's 2012!! ingilip.oom

The closest comparison we have to Rage Comics today is Wojaks, which are used in essentially the same way but have historically been seen as less "cringey" in recent years. So, what does the future hold for them? Likely, the trajectory looks similar to that of Rage Comics.

"Wojaks have been used for almost 10 years, but they’ve exploded in the past one or two. They’re on the decline, but I couldn’t say for sure where they’ll be in the future. I don’t think Rage Comics themselves are coming back, at least not as they used to be, but I do think that the ironic and subversive use of Rage Comics is just getting started. Things like the ‘oil floats on water’ and 'Trollface Incident' memes are partially what caused me to start this account in the first place.”

2) lose hope of escape on the journey 1) have unquenchable *hunger 3) stand amongst actions no man created as sirens scream your name August 2021 "Aurora Woods" Incident

Since the interview, those formats have only continued to grow, and old memes have only continued to rear their heads. The inclusion of Rage Comics in Rebecca Black’s new “Friday” remix was a telling sign, and so is the continual explosion of schizo-posting, Void Comics, and even GIF-captions on iFunny, a little-appreciated shitposting artform and ultra-ironic take on classic image macros. All that being said, it stands to be seen if this wave of meme nostalgia is something that’s going to last, or if it’s going to die down in the near future.

“I think a lot of the initial excitement [for Ancient Memes] has worn off a bit,” Switch1e said. “That's not to say that this page is dead or anything, but it's not experiencing the exponential growth it was during the first few days. Will I run out of old memes? I couldn't tell you. There's a lot of memes out there, and as time passes, newer stuff will have become old enough for me to post as well.”

If the old memes ever do run out though, Switch1e always has his YouTube channel, switch1e, where his true passion lies.

“I've pretty much been doing YouTube since I was a little kid,” Switch1e told us. “When I was six years old, my dad used to film me playing with my Super Mario Bros. plushes and we would upload them. I've run a few channels over the years, but it's pretty much always been focused on gaming in some form. Nowadays, I tend to do long-form comedic game and pop culture analyses. It can be fun, and I'm generally happy with what I do, but it, unfortunately, isn't the best type of content for growing an audience quickly. I probably should be more proactive in taking advantage of this all [Ancient Memes success]. I'm extremely lucky to be able to have this kind of access to hundreds of thousands of people. Letting them know about my YouTube channel, which is something that I put a lot of time and energy into, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

If you want to support Switch1e, visit his Twitter @OldMemeArchive, YouTube channel at youtube.com/switch1e, or Twitter at @switch1e_swoof.

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