Yimin Chen: Meme Enthusiast and Internet Troll

By Christina Donati

Yimin's hometown: Vancouver, B.C.

Yimin Chen, 35, is currently researching internet trolling for his PhD, and he hopes to one day publish a history of memes book.


It was at age 12 when Yimin Chen became immersed in internet culture and online communities.

Over time, Yimin became particularly interested in trolling behaviours and memes. He found memes hilarious, and he was part of various communities that discussed, and engaged, in internet trolling.

Now, Yimin is a 35-year-old research student at Western University in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. He is working on his PhD; his thesis work is about internet trolling.

“On one hand, internet trolling is used for cyberbullying and the most terrible internet abuse, but on the other hand people use it for jokes, memes and harmless teasing between friends.”

Although he doesn’t engage in online communities anymore, Yimin was interested in studying the different types of internet trolling behaviour. Yimin differentiates two types of trolling: harmful trolling and harmless trolling. He enjoys memes himself, but he believes if a meme or trolling post is targeted and meant to cause emotional distress then it’s a bad type of trolling, regardless of whether it’s considered funny. Through his research, Yimin hopes to help inform the creation of useful policy for social media platforms and institutions to better target the harmful trolling behaviours.

"If there's anything to be said about the internet, it's that memes are hilarious."
Aside from internet trolling, Yimin is interested in conspiracy theories, and has taught guest lectures about these theories in the past.

In one lecture, Yimin told students to make tinfoil hats for protection against government mind control radiation. “Almost all of them kept their hats on for the last half of my lecture. I was thrilled that it totally worked. I got people to do stupid things with me.”

Fun Fact

Yimin once did an overnight climb to the top of Mount Fuji to see the sun rise. However, while semi-delirious with exhaustion, Yimin and his friend decided to go down the other side of the mountain. Although they got lost, they eventually found their way back home.

One of his favourite parts about Western is the academic environment. “It’s a really interesting place where people talk about the weirdest things with absolute seriousness. There’s always a pub or bar on campus, which is a great meeting place to have late-night conversations with beers.”

Yimin is part of the graduate podcast at Western titled GradCast — a weekly show that interviews graduate students about their work and student life. He can be found on-air as an interviewer or behind the scenes producing the show, but he prefers talking to people on-air. “I like to think I’m funny. I’m willing to have a conversation about anything and treat it, at least, semi-seriously. I’ll do almost anything for a joke, as long as it’s not harmful or hurtful.”


Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.