Meet the queen of @newjerseymemes

Abby Jarecki and Zach Rever

If you live in New Jersey, there’s a good chance you’ve had to defend your home state against haters. However, amid the negative stereotypes that surround the state, many New Jerseyans appreciate its unique culture. Where else can you get the best bagels and the worst traffic? Where else can you be at the shore by day and in New York City by night? Yes, arguments happen (does central Jersey exist? is it called Taylor ham or pork roll?), but you can’t deny that the New Jersey lifestyle is truly one of a kind.

“In this house we stan New Jersey,” reads the bio of @newjerseymemes, an Instagram meme account with over 169,000 followers. As the bio demonstrates, the account unites New Jersey residents through a sense of state pride.

Hi’s Eye interviewed Coleen (whose last name is withheld for privacy reasons), the college student who proudly runs @newjerseymemes. Raised in Monmouth County, she currently manages the account from Boston, where she is a student at Northeastern University.

As an out-of-state student, Coleen found that many people liked to hate on her home state. “I was always homesick and people [on campus] and on the internet were always like, ‘[NJ] sucks,’ ‘it smells’ and things like that,” she said.

With all of this negativity around her, she wished people would see a more positive side of New Jersey.

Photo by @newjerseymemes
Taylor ham vs. pork roll debate dramatized through a screen
capture of Jersey Shore featured on Coleen’s account

Coleen and her friends from home knew that New Jersey wasn’t “the armpit of America” like people at their colleges were saying it was, and they’d send memes back and forth about all things New Jersey. They’d talk about the good, the bad and the culturally iconic. Eventually, Coleen created @newjerseymemes to share her content with more people and celebrate the positive and unique aspects of New Jersey culture.

Over the past year, her account has become incredibly popular. Coleen never expected this outcome, however. She described her accomplishment of 100,000 followers as “crazy.” She further explained, “I wasn’t really a social media person beforehand, so it was a shock to me when I was having that kind of success with it.”

As the account has become the prime source of Jersey-based memes, Coleen now receives messages from residents all around the state. While it can be hard to manage such popularity, finding time to keep up isn’t  much of a challenge for Coleen.

Her time management skills root from her busy schedule as a high schooler. Just like many New Jersey high school students, Coleen participated in a number of extracurricular activities, including sports, theater and robotics.

Now, as a college student, she runs @newjerseymemes in her downtime, which she actually prefers over scrolling through posts on her personal social media feed.

The account also fits interestingly into her academic path. A computer science and business major, she draws on her lessons in technology, analytics and strategy to run a cohesive and organized account. In the future, she hopes to be able to do a data analysis project with the account.

For Coleen, meme-making takes time and organization, but also insight from fellow New Jerseyans. This is important for her starter pack memes, in which she highlights what makes individual counties unique. She relies on suggestions from followers who live in each county, as well as her own research.

In fact, that’s what many followers enjoy about the account: the personalized feeling that the memes provoke. WHS sophomore Maggie McCauley said regarding the Union County Starter Pack (pictured): “It was really interesting [to see the meme] because I never thought of New Jersey and Union County as its own world, but now I see that many things define it.”

Even with the immense success of the account, Coleen still focuses on getting input from her followers. She utilizes the “question” tool on her Instagram stories so they can share their own meme ideas, as well as their restaurant, attraction and town recommendations. A few months ago, Coleen stopped at Boxwood Coffee in Westfield per a follower recommendation. “I hadn’t been to Westfield since I was little—if at all—so I thought it was a good idea [to try it],” she explained.

Along with these recommendations, Coleen’s direct messages are also filled with heartfelt words from New Jerseyans who were able to stay connected to their home state through following her account. Coleen is immensely surprised by the genuine responses she receives.

Coleen recalls followers “saying things like, ‘I’m really homesick and out of state, your account really helps me feel better as I transition to college,’ or ‘as I transition to a new job.’”  She says that some people tell her that “they have been [out-of-state] for many years and [they’re] really reconnecting with [their] roots” through the account.

“In this house we stan

‘I just like connecting everyone from different parts of NJ and realizing we all have the same experiences. North Jersey, South Jersey, believing in Central Jersey or not… It’s one state.’”

— Coleen of @newjerseymemes

WHS alum and SUNY Binghamton University freshman Alicia Harris uses Coleen’s account to get her daily NJ fix while away at school. “Following [@newjerseymemes] has helped me [connect to New Jersey] because it’s very easy to relate to the things they post about, especially when they talk about Union County,” she said. “I always get a great feeling when I see their new posts.”

As she has already reached her goal of scoring 100,000 followers, Coleen doesn’t know what her next big goal for the account is. But, she knows that her focus for @newjerseymemes remains consistent: “connecting everyone from different parts of New Jersey and realizing we all have so many of the same experiences.”