When chicken sandwich loyalties were questioned in August by Popeyes’ new sandwich, Tampa restaurant Datz made a point with its marquee.
“We have a fried chicken sandwich too,” it read.
That’s when Chris Fasick decided to make meme gold of the opportunity.
In an Instagram post, black type above a photo of the Datz sign reads, “When you can’t stand to see other people getting attention.” As of Thursday morning, the post had 673 likes and was one of the most-liked on Fasick’s account, @memestampabay.
It’s the local freelance photographer’s chance to poke fun at everyday observations and struggles, like trying to travel on I-275 in time to make happy hour. Or calling out which local brewery makes the better IPA, the Rays exploring the idea of splitting their home games with Montreal or the continual delays associated with the new St. Pete Pier project.
Although memes about the bay area on social media are nothing new, Fasick’s account is a hub of those memes. He runs it alone and creates mostly from his own experiences.
“It’s just a hobby and just for fun,” he said.
@stpetememes, another account along the same lines as Fasick’s, launched in June, but with a St. Pete focus.
Fasick, 40, is beyond the age of users who would typically consume or create memes.
A majority of popular meme accounts with identifiable creators are run by 20-somethings. Elliot Tebele, 28, runs one of the most popular meme accounts on Instagram. Followers know it by its profane name. (Hint: it ends with the name, “Jerry”).
One of the outliers is Josh Ostrovsky, 37, who runs @thefatjewish.
He also wasn’t meme-aware before starting the account, but some friends did send him memes occasionally. At some point, he noticed meme pages about the Tampa Bay area were few and far between, if existent at all. The ones he knew of — about Clearwater and one Tampa neighborhood — quickly fell by the wayside after a few posts.
So, out of boredom and armed with free time, he started Memes Tampa Bay. The first post went up on May 13 and was also about Datz.
After two days, he counted 100 followers. Then, after 15 days, 500. After about a month, he had 1,000. As of Oct. 1, Memes Tampa Bay’s follower count neared 3,300.
People are less likely to react negatively, he thinks, to opinions online when they are presented as memes. It’s easier to laugh at a meme and move on, rather than get angry, he said.
“I think meme accounts are looked at like stand-up comedians. You know they’re here to tell jokes, so it’s taken less personal. But it’s important to be funny, not mean. It’s a fine line,” Fasick said.
But for a bit, he remained anonymous to avoid possible backlash from his memes.
He does admit to having creative blocks — he couldn’t come up with a meme to post for a week one time — and feeling the need to post every few days. For perspective, major meme aggregators and creators, such as Elliot Tebele, create content for multiple posts a day. Tebele told the New Yorker about the pressure to post.
“It’s not like I have a bucket of content to pick from," Tebele said in the 2018 story. “Some days, I’ll spend hours looking for the next post.”