The internet loves staying up late with the ‘me at 3am’ meme

person looking at phone late in the night

Illustration by Max Fleishman

What’s keeping you from bed?

It’s late. Everyone else has gone to bed. Your mom turned in at 8pm because she has to wake your younger siblings up for school in the morning. Or all your housemates have been asleep for hours because they’ve got a volleyball tournament the next day.

Meanwhile, you’re in your room. There’s an empty Papa John’s box on the floor—you finished the last slice 45 minutes ago. Maybe you’re still up reading about octopus mating habits. Perhaps the dankest memes of the weirdest corners of the internet are keeping you from bed. Or you’re on the 12th episode in a row of Orange Is the New Black

Whatever’s keeping you up, it’s fucking late.

We’ve all been there. It’s a situation so real that it has, of course, found its way into memedom. And there’s a whole flurry of things people of the interwebz are too distracted with to hit the sack for a good night’s rest.

The meme follows a pretty simple formula. There’s usually a first line setting the initial scene, whether it’s preparing to go to bed at an appropriate time or expressing low energy in some way. Then it fast-forwards to some time after midnight, like 2am or 3am. 

These are the times where weird shit starts to happen, where the rest of the world is quiet and you’re still stirring in the night. Normies have finally tucked themselves in. And as they enjoy their travels through slumberland, you’re up to whatever madness captures your fancy.

Popular usages of the meme employ some sort of weird physical behavior at these times, typically dancing, or, as the above memes depict, dressing up in a Shrek costume. There’s also the rabbit hole of information accessible with Google searches away or random YouTube videos. 

The meme has been around for a while, but it often sees a resurgence when Netflix releases a new season of television and people are up binging as many episodes as possible. When Orange Is the New Black‘s season 4 premiered in mid-June, a slew of these memes surfaced.

But aside from crazy dancing and prying open your eyelids to get to the finale of OITNB, there are some completely ridiculous examples of what people are getting into at this time of night.

As for the source of this meme, well, it’s a little hard to exactly pinpoint. The idea of being up super late and doing random shit isn’t exactly the most revolutionary concept. But because it’s something that everyone partakes in—usually against their better judgement—it’s highly relatable.

“Me at 3am” definitely has roots in Night Blogging, the notion of staying up late and posting absurd stuff on the internet; 2012 is when we saw a big stride in this nighttime phenomenon, especially on Tumblr. Some hypothesize that “me at 3am” has a connection to a 2013 Owl City tweet. Revealing that you’re baking a cake at 2:00 in the morning would definitely fall in line with the ludicrous ethos of Night Blogging.  

But no matter where it came from, internet fiends will undoubtedly stay up late with the glow of their computer or just partying in their rooms instead of succumbing to a nighttime doze. And with whatever mania happens late at night, we’re glad people can illustrate their sleepless shenanigans. 

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