“I use four apps to make a meme,” says Andy, who runs the Instagram meme page @heckoffsupreme. “There’s not one app I can go to for everything I need, not even close.”
“It’s ad hoc,” says Terry, who runs the page @socialpracticemafia and has used a slew of photo- and video-editing apps to make memes. “You know the term bricolage? It’s basically making due. It’s like that.”
Years ago, when classic macro-memes with Impact font—like Success Kid, Condescending Wonka, and Business Cat—became popular, there were tons of easy online meme generators. Unfortunately, as memes have evolved, the majority of top meme-making apps in Apple’s App Store have failed to adopt to more modern formats, rendering them semi-useless.
“You’d only use one of those now to be ironic about how terrible they are,” Terry says. “It’s funny that there’s been this regression to something that’s actually less efficient because the style of memes has changed. I don’t think anyone is designing these apps to make the kind of weird post-dank memes that are being made now.”
The most popular format for large meme pages is still one that looks like a tweet with an image attached: a photo or video on the bottom, Arial-font text on top, and a white background. But over the past several months, there’s been a sea change in the meme community, according to several top memers. Meme accounts that post more complex, artistic memes—including object-labeling memes, creative photo-editing memes, or memes with lots of text—have begun to gain popularity and online clout, and thousands of amateur meme accounts have sprung up, copying their style.
“The biggest difference is there’s way more information packed into most memes today than Impact-font memes,” says Cindie, who runs the meme account @males_are_cancelled. “The average person has viewed so much of this content, their ability to understand the nuance within newer meme format has increased.”
“I’m 20, maybe because it’s a new thing, but I think younger people are into more absurd, surreal humor,” says Chris, who creates highly visual memes under the handle @young__nobody. “Those big meme pages would make fun of us or call us weird niche members with the kooky fonts, but the whole scene has grown a lot in the past year,” says Loren, also known as @Whiskey.rat.
But to create in this new genre of memes means to rely heavily on apps that were not built with meme creators in mind. Phonto, one of the most popular apps for making object-labeling memes, has a steep learning curve and is plagued with bugs. “Losing my work has happened to me constantly,” says Andy, who has also relied on an app called InShot. “Sometimes things will shut down and be gone and I’ll have to start over. It becomes really time-consuming.” PicsArt, another photo-editing tool, is a mainstay for many memers who use it to watermark their work, but is notorious for its distracting pop-up ads.
For video memes, many people rely on PicPlayPost, but the app was not built for making memes and doesn’t include some more advanced features that many memers crave. “We didn’t create PicPlayPost with the intention of going after the meme community, but given the tools we have it doesn’t surprise me that it’s building momentum in that group,” says Daniel Vinh, who heads marketing for Mixcord, the parent company of PicPlayPost. “If any of these memers want to reach out and talk to us about the top five features they want or need, we’d be more than happy to have a brainstorm session on how we can make that happen.”
In the meantime, some memers have found the current suite of mobile applications so lacking that they choose to create their memes on desktop computers instead. “On your phone, you’re never going to be able to do as much as you could as on a computer,” says Noam, who memes under the account @listenin2spitngettinparamordon.