Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

The Greatest Memes Of The Decade [Infographic]

Over the past decade, the Internet has blossomed from an undiscovered frontier into a golden civilization that will define our age.

It’s a civilization whose culture is decided by its citizens. These citizens have chosen to carve a culture of cats, large bums and unlikely action movie stars. Memes are the backbone of internet culture. They are the manifestation of the will of the Internet, fuelled by word-of-mouth.

As citizens of the internet and proponents of the mighty power of word-of-mouth, we’ve immortalized the greatest memes of this decade in glittering gold for your enjoyment. Enjoy!






2005

On January 1st, 2005, Facebook was still in its infancy, there was no Twitter or Tumblr and Youtube was 6 weeks away from launching.

It was a simpler time where a hundred thousand views constituted virality and memes primarily spread through email and niche sites like Newgrounds.

Chuck Norris Facts

Chuck Norris is a martial artist and actor whose reality defying action sequences turned him into an immortal internet legend.

This meme consists of satirical factoids about Chuck Norris’ capabilities, such as the ability to slam revolving doors.

The meme is so popular it has leaked into mainstream media, notably appearing on a banner during student protests in Germany – “Only Chuck Norris Can Earn A Bachelor’s Degree in Scheduled Time

Leeroy Jenkins

Leeroy Jenkins is a World Of Warcraft player character made famous in a gameplay video of a disastrous attempt by a team of players to defeat a nest of powerful dragons.

The video begins with the team of players hatching an elaborate plan of attack while Leeroy is away fixing a meal.

The plan, specifically designed to help Leeroy acquire a rare treasure, gets completely thrown out the window when Leeroy returns and charges straight into the dragon’s nest with a stylized battle cry of his name.

After a moment of stunned silence the rest of the team runs in to save Leeroy but ends up mercilessly slaughtered, all the while swearing at Leeroy.

Leeroy, his battle cry and various lines of dialogue from the video made were widely parodied. The character is now an official part of the World Of Warcraft mythos.

Charlie The Unicorn

Charlie The Unicorn is a viral animated short by Jason Steele of production company FilmCow.

Charlie, a grumpy unicorn, gets coerced into taking a trip to Candy Mountain by a pair of excitable hyperactive unicorns.

Upon reaching Candy Mountain, Charlie enters a cave only to find himself locked in and knocked out.

He awakes to find the two unicorns had stolen his kidney.

The short was first uploaded on Newgrounds, where it rapidly gained popularity. It was later uploaded to Youtube where it rapidly gained viewership and went viral.

Million Dollar Homepage

To pay for his education, Alex Tew started the Million Dollar Homepage, a 1000×1000 grid of one million pixels, each for sale for a $1 each.

Businesses could advertise on these pixels and add a hyperlink to their businesses.

The site became an internet phenomenon, reaching a peak Alexa rank of 127 (this means it was the 127th most visited website on the internet).

The final 1000 pixels on the site were put on auction and fetched $38,100, bringing the final gross income tally of the site to $1,037,100.

Flying Spaghetti Monster

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of the parody religion Pastafarianism, a social movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of creationism in American public schools.

Bobby Henderson, then a 24 year old Physics graduate, had written an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education arguing that since the intelligent design movement alludes that any conceivable entity could fulfill the role of designer, it could very well be a flying spaghetti monster.

After receiving no response from the board, Henderson hosted the letter on his website where it gained immense popularity, becoming an internet phenomenon and gaining mass media coverage.

Pastafarianism is now one of the most popular religions on Facebook.

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2006

2006 was the year Twitter was launched, giving memes a whole new way to spread. Facebook launches its news feed feature in the third quarter of this year.

Buzzfeed is founded this year, destined to become bestowed with the power to rapidly spread viral content… but not yet.

It’s Over 9000!

In the English dub of the Japanese anime Dragon Ball Z, the villain Vegeta senses the main character Goku’s rising power levels and exclaims “IT’S OVER 9000!”  (An average human in this series has a power level of 1).

A video clip of the scene was posted to Youtube as an inside joke amongst friends. It made its way to 4chan’s /b/ board where it gained popularity, spawning remixes, image macros and dedicated sites.

The phrase is still used today in reaction to impressive feats or large quantities of things.

Duck Face

The duck face is a pejorative term for the facial expression of pressing one’s lips together into the shape of a duck’s bill. It first gained popularity on MySpace where it was known as MySpace Face, featuring prominently on the profile images of many teenage girls.

It wasn’t until May 2006 that it was termed Duck Face on urban dictionary. Once the phenomenon had a name, the term exploded in popularity.

Cinnamon Challenge

The Cinnamon challenge is a viral internet food challenge that involves challengers attempting to swallow a heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

The feat is more difficult than it sounds. Most challengers end up choking while coughing up clouds of cinnamon.

The challenge went viral with many popular comedians attempting the challenge with many videos racking up millions of views.

Advice Animals

The most recognizable image macro memes of today are all descendants of an early meme called “Advice Dog”.

Advice Dog memes feature an image of a cheerful dog on a rainbow background dispensing horrible life advice.

The meme evolved to feature a growing roster of animals collectively known as “Advice Animals”, each personifying a different brand of advice.

The format of a large image with text superimposed in the Impact font has become the standard for all image macros and the roster of Advice Animals has grown to include humans, the Mars space rover and a famous green frog puppet.

Giant Enemy Crab

Sony’s disastrous press conference at E3 2006 were full of memeworthy quotes that were ridiculed and parodied for the months that followed.

The most frequently parodied quote spawned from the announcement for the game Genji: Days of Blade.

The game’s developer, Bill Ritch, tells the audience that the game is historical, realistic and based on “famous battles that actually took place in Japan.”

Mere seconds after his statement, gameplay footage featuring a three storey tall crab monster began playing on screen.

Dubbed “Giant Enemy Crab”, the meme spread across gaming sites and spawned countless remixes, including a flash game on Newgrounds.

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2007

Tumblr is founded in February 2007. Initially designed for simple short form blogging, Tumblr would gradually grow into a bastion of internet culture and the birthplace of endless memes.

The Most Interesting Man In The World

“The Most Interesting Man In The World” is an advertising campaign for the Dos Equis brand of beer produced by European marketing firm Euro RSCG.

The titular character is a fictional debonair gentleman in his 70’s. The ads featured black and white montages of the man’s feats from his youth, which include freeing a bear from a bear trap and catching a marlin with his bare hands. Voiceovers tell tales of the his abilities, such as his inability to carry credit cards due to his magnetic personality.

The ads conclude with the man looking into the camera and saying “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

A freeze frame of this scene coupled with the phrasal template “ “I don’t always X, but when I do, I Y.” became the meme we know today.

Chocolate Rain

“Chocolate Rain” is a viral song by YouTube star Tay Zonday created as commentary on racism and injustice in the United States.

The song received attention for Zonday’s unexpectedly deep, gravelly voice and his awkward mannerisms in the video. Most notably, a caption early in the video “I move away from the mic to breathe in” was widely parodied and referenced.

The popularity of the song led to its spread on mainstream media.

Zonday made multiple television appearances. Covers included tributes from major musical artists like John Mayer and television programs from Sesame Street to South Park have made references to the song.

Yo Dawg

“Yo Dawg” is an image macro series featuring a photograph of American rapper Xzibit.

The original meme references Xzibit’s stint as the host of “Pimp My Ride”, where he often included luxury amenities into participants cars (like fish tanks and fire places) without their consent.

The meme evolved into an example of recursive humour, following the format of

“Yo dawg, I herd you like X, so I put an X in your Y so you can VERB while you VERB”

Xzibit has embraced the meme, having come up with his own version.

Success Kid

“Success Kid” is a reaction meme  used to express a situation that goes better than expected.

The meme features a picture of an 11-month old boy named Sammy looking straight into the camera with a smug expression and a fist full of sand.

It briefly spawned a separate viral image called “I Hate Sandcastles” (referencing Sammy’s fist full of sand and the beach setting) but eventually came to be known as Success Kid.

His image was used with permission by Virgin Media to advertise a web streaming service.

Sammy’s internet fame successfully helped raised funds for his father’s kidney transplant in mid 2015.

Rickroll

Rickroll began as Duckroll, a bait-and-switch practice in which an external link with an attractive title directed to an image of a duck with wooden wheels instead.

The first recorded Rickroll happened on 4Chan’s video game forum, where a link supposedly linking to a trailer for the newly announced Grand Theft Auto IV trailer linked to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video.

The practice spread rapidly from 4chan onto other forms of social media.

On April Fools day in 2008, every video on the YouTube front page led to Rick Astley’s video.

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2008

2008 was the year of the writers strike, leading many professional writers to turn to the internet. It was the year that marked the beginnings of high quality internet content, notably signified by the internet musical Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, an internet musical written by Hollywood icon Joss Whedon and starring Emmy award winner Neil Patrick Harris.

Philosoraptor

Philosoraptor is first descendent of the Advice Animal meme that’s an actual animal. Its name stems from a combination of “Velociraptor” and “Philosopher”.

The image macro typically includes a philosophical or existential thought.

The earliest known depiction of the Philosoraptor was found on YTMND in early 2007 in the form of a Jurassic Park raptor holding a copy of Plato’s complete works. It received minor attention.

The current image of Philosoraptor was created as a T Shirt design in 2008 by Sam Smith (not to be confused with the singer) who was inspired by a pet name he had for his friend, Devin.

The meme gained traction later that year and spiked in popularity in early 2009 when MemeGenerator.com was launched. It remains one of the most popular memes on the site with nearly 40,000 variations.

The Glorious PC Master Gaming Race

In 2008, online gaming magazine The Escapist published review of the game The Witcher. During the review, the narrator recommends playing the game on PC due to its complex controls so “those dirty console playing peasants don’t ruin it for the glorious PC gaming master race”.

The term didn’t go viral until February 2010, when a Facebook page called “The Glorious PC Master Gaming Race” was created. Shortly after, the subreddit /r/pcmasterrace was created, where redditors discuss matters relating to the superiority of PC gaming.

The phrase frequently appears in discussions about PC and Console gaming.

Rage Comics

Rage comics are a series of comics usually depicting real life experiences often sloppily created using simple software like MS Paint.

Characters known as Rage Faces are used to express emotions and sentiments. Each face comes from a different source, with majority originating from users on 4chan and Reddit.

The first rage comics originated as four panel comics on 4Chan’s /b/ channel.

Rage Comics quickly gained popularity when the Subreddit /r/FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU was launched, giving redditors a channel to host their own rage comics.

Each Rage Face has spawned its own series of image macros.

Three Wolf Moon

Three Wolf Moon refers to a series of hilarious fake customer review on Amazon about a t-shirt that purportedly grants mystical powers.

The first ironic review was posted in 2008, mentioning the shirt’s magical ability to attract women.

Three Wolf Moon popularized an entire internet phenomenon – Customer Review Comedy.

After being inundated with glowing 5 star reviews, the shirt became one of the best selling items on Amazon in 2009.

Boxxy

Boxxy is a character created and played by YouTube personality Catie Wayne.

The highly energetic character with heavy eyeliner and animated expressions originated in 2006 when Wayne recorded a video for another user on the site Gaia Online.

The video remained unseen until 2008 when it was shared on I Am Bored. The video found immense popularity on 4chan’s /b/ channel, where users were split between those who loved and hated the character.

In response, Wayne uploaded a new video in character addressing /b/ and the drama surrounding her character.

Following this, 4chan users that hated Boxxy hacked into Wayne’s YouTube account, turned all videos private and publicly shared her personal information. It was eventually restored and an apology was issued.

The drama on 4chan got so bad that the community launched a denial of service attack on themselves in protest of the situation.

Wayne resumed creating Boxxy videos in 2011 and has been named by Urlesque magazine as one of the most iconic vloggers of all time.

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2009

2009 saw memes born from beyond the confines of the internet. Susan Boyle and Kanye West become the some of the year’s hottest memes after their exploits on television. Twitter becomes the third most popular social network this year, up from its previous rank of 22.

David After Dentist

David After Dentist is a viral YouTube video featuring David Devore Jr’s hilarious reaction to anaesthesia after a visit to the dentist.

David’s father had decided to film David before and after his dental procedure for his mother Tessa, who was unable to accompany the boy.

In the video, David, woozy from the anaesthesia, asks deep existential questions such as “Is this real life?” and “Why is this happening to me?”

It received 3 million views in just 3 days and received media coverage on The Wall Street Journal and Buzzfeed. It was the most watched video on YouTube in 2009.

Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle was a Scottish contestant on the contest Britain’s Got Talent.

Her extraordinary performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” from the musical Les Miserables amazed the usually harsh judges, who called her performance “Stunning” and “Extraordinary”. The contrast between her incredible voice and her ordinary fueled the rapid sharing of the video.

Susan Boyle received a second wave of popularity during a campaign to launch her album. Record executives promoted the album with the hashtag #susanalbumparty. Noting that the hash tag could be read as “Su’s Anal Bum Party”, the hashtag sparked a series of hilarious images and tweets.

Her debut album is the most widely sold debut album in British history and a musical about her rise to fame premiered in 2012.

Imma Let You Finish / Kanye Interrupts

“Imma Let You Finish” refers to an on-air-mishap that happened during the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards.

As Taylor Swift took the stage to receive her award for Best Female Video, Kanye West stormed the stage and snatched the mic to proclaim “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time…one of the best videos of all time”.

Later that night, Beyonce was awarded Video Of The Year and invited Taylor Swift on stage to finish her speech instead of delivering her own.

The notorious interruption was remixed into a multitude of videos and images, where Kanye interrupts everything from a presidential speech to a Windows XP loading screen.

Balloon Boy

In 2009, Falcon Heene reportedly climbed into a large silver helium balloon and floated off into the sky.

As people watched the events unfold with bated breath on news channels  across the globe, Falcon was nowhere to be found when the balloon landed two hours later.

He was later found hiding in a box in his attic, with the entire stunt being revealed as a hoax for publicity by his father, Richard Heene.

The older Heene and his wife were eventually charged with a $45,000 fine, work release and public service.

QWOP

QWOP is a flash based game developed by independent game developer Benett Foddy.

Players control a runner and try to get him to complete a 100 meter run, doing this by individually controlling the runner’s left and right thighs and calves.

The frustrating controls and ensuing hilarious gameplay as the runner flops about helplessly on the track led to the game’s virality.

The game first gained mild popularity in early 2009 before gaining massive attention in late 2010 and early 2011 when Youtuber penguinz0 uploaded a gameplay video titled “The Most Difficult Game Ever Created Gameplay and Commentary”, which lead to the game being featured on Ray William Johnson’s online show =3 and a feature article in the independent.

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2010

Social media use hits incredible numbers, Facebook reaches the 500 million active user mark while Twitter users release 65 million tweets a day to the the tune of 750 tweets per second. YouTube user Schmoyoho release their first viral hits this year, setting the stage for their future as power players in YouTube virality.

Sad Keanu

Sad Keanu is a Photoshop meme born from a Paparazzi photo of Keanu Reeves eating a Sandwich alone on a park bench.

The meme hit the mainstream The image was posted with the caption “I really enjoy acting…Because when I act, I’m no longer me” in a Reddit thread titled “Keanu. More sadness in comments”.

The thread hit 281,000 views and made it to the front page of the site. For the rest of the month, Sad Keanu memes spread across Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr while spawning a wave of other Keanu Memes.

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Isaiah Mustafa stars in a series of ads for Old Spice as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” – an attractive charming man who smells incredible thanks to Old Spice.

The original ad featured Mustafa delivering a confidently delivering a fast-paced monologue while rapidly moving between exotic locations, beginning in a bathroom and ending on horseback along a beach.

The video was an instant hit, exploding on social media the day after, inspiring hundreds of parody videos and remixes.

As of November 2015, the video has 52 million views.

Double Rainbow

In January 2010, Paul Vasquez spotted a double arched rainbow across the skies of the Yosemite mountains.

He filmed the phenomenon with his excited reaction audible in the background and uploaded it to YouTube.

The video lay dormant on YouTube for months until it was discovered by Jimmy Kimmel who tweeted about it.

Vasquez’s overwhelming awe and his highly quotable commentary led to the video’s popularity.

In the days that followed, the video was featured on Huffington Post and on Ray William Johnson’s “=3” channel with Vasquez being interviewed on CBS News and Jimmy Kimmel Live. The video currently has 43 million views.

YouTube user Scmoyoho produced an autotuned version of the video which amassed 36 million views.

Later that year, Vasquez starred in Microsoft commercial for Windows Live parodying the original video.

Bed Intruder

Alabama resident Kevin Antoine Dodson’s home was unfortunately broken into in July 2010. The intruder climbed into the unit via an unlocked window and attempted to rape Dodson’s sister, Kelly.

Local news channel WAFF-48 sent a correspondent to interview the family. A recording of Dodson’s hilarious commentary on the TV segment was posted to YouTube.

The video gained attention on Reddit’s /r/funny subreddit and made its way to Buzzfeed’s front page and Cnet News.

YouTube user Scmoyoho’s autotuned remix of the video exceeded the original in popularity, with a 130 million views and a top 25 ranking on the iTunes charts.

Trololo

The spiritual successor to the Rick Roll stars nationally-honoured Eduard Khil performing the Soviet-Era pop hit “I am Glad, ‘cause I’m Finally Returning Back Home”. The video is commonly used as a bait-and-switch tactic.

The song was recorded in a traditional Russian singing style Vokaliz, composed entirely of mouth music and without any lyrics. Paired with an absurd music video featuring Khil wandering around a room smiling and singing to seemingly no one, the video quickly became an internet hit.

Beginning with a top post on the /r/wtf subreddit, the video quickly found its way to Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post. The website Trololololololololololo.com with nothing but the video on loop received 3 million views in its first month.

Khil’s song featured and parodied on mainstream media, appearing on programs like the Colbert Report and Jimmy Kimmel Live. The popularity of the song led to a campaign for Khil to come out of retirement and go on a world tour.

Khil passed away in 2012. The unfortunate news was the top post on Reddit with 18,000 upvotes.

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2011

China become home to the fastest growing number of internet users in the world. “Nope, Chuck Testa” becomes the first major meme to be born from a television series born from a web series. Facebook is used to organize an uprising in Egypt, leading to an Egyptian child being named Facebook in honour of its pivotal role.

Rebecca Black’s Friday

Rebecca Black is an amateur musician who recorded the infamous pop song “Friday”.

The music video for “Friday” was first uploaded to YouTube in February 2011, but didn’t gain any recognition till it was posted on The Daily What.

Critics derided the song for its monotonous lyrics and heavy auto-tune, dubbing it “the worst song ever”. The video is one of the most disliked videos on YouTube, with 1.7 million thumbs downs.

The song spawned countless parodies including ones from celebrities like Conan O’Brien and remains referenced till this date.

Rebecca Black is currently pursuing a professional music career. The video receives a surge of views every Friday.

First World Problems

First World Problems is an image macro that’s grown into a part of popular lingo used to describe daily problems that are only complaints due to the lack of more pressing concerns.

The term has made minor, unconnected appearances since 1995. It first appeared as line in a Canadian Alt Rock song, then as a popular venn diagram on Tumblr and as a punchline in a Louis CK standup routine.

The viral image macro first appeared in 2011 on Reddit in the subreddit /r/firstworldproblems. Buzzfeed posted an entire gallery of images the day after which led to a spike in popularity.

Numerous derivatives of the meme have been created, ranging from the nostalgic 1990’s “First World Problems”, to the meme’s mildly offensive anti-thesis “Third World Success”.

Nope, Chuck Testa

In 2011, Taxidermist Chuck Testa reached out to Comedy duo Rhett and Link for help with his business as part of the TV series “Rhett and Link: Commercial Kings”.

Rhett and Link proceeded to film a ridiculous commercial where deadpan actors mistake Testa’s Taxidermy for live animals in unlikely daily situations.

The commercial was posted to Buzzfeed and Best Week Ever, going viral within the day and appearing on CNBC the day after.

The meme spawned a wave of two panel comics and videos beginning with the appearance of an unexpected entity (e.g Osama Bin Laden or a shark) and ending with the catchphrase “Nope! It’s Chuck Testa”.

Nyan Cat

Nyan Cat is an 8-bit video of a cat with a poptart for a body soaring through outer space leaving a trail of rainbows behind him.

The viral video is a combination of the original animated gif by illustrator Chris Torres and a synthetically vocalized song “Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya” by musician Daniwell-P.

In April 2011, the video spread across social media and was picked up by Collegehumour, Buzzfeed and G4TV. The video currently has 127 million views.

Nyan Cat inspired countless remixes from musical covers to games and even a officially licensed cryptocurrency called nyanco.in.

Planking

Planking is a photo meme that gained popularity after David “Wolfman” Williams, an Australian pro-rugby player, planked during a rugby game.

Prior to Planking, similar memes existed online under various names. The meme first gained popularity on Australian social media before spreading across the globe, spawning dedicated planking sites and celebrity endorsements.

Planking faced backlash after cases of people dying while attempting to plank in dangerous positions were reported. The controversy worsened after American rapper Xzibit tweeted about the origins of planking were as a means of efficiently transporting slaves.

During the peak of its popularity, Planking was often used during protests as an act of defiance.

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2012

Worldwide internet usage breaks 2.4 billion users. PSY’s Gangnam Style gallops its way into never before seen levels of popularity and obliterates everything humanity has known about the limits of viral media.

Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

In March, 2012, Will King photographed runners at the annual Cooper River Bridge Run.

One photo stood out of the hundreds King snapped. Amidst the sea of breathless faces was a man flashing a perfect smile.

King’s friends dubbed the mystery man “Mr Ridiculously Photogenic Guy”.

The photo was shared on Reddit and received over 40,000 upvotes. Remixes instantly appeared, with a facebomb version of the original image reaching Reddit’s front page the same day.

Mashable and MSN covered the story and the mystery man was quickly identified as 25-year old Zeddie Little, who soon appeared on national television.

The meme inspired a many “Ridiculously Photogenic X” derivatives, ranging from the adorable “Ridiculously Photogenic Puppy” to the wholly unexpected “Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Rebel”.

Potato Jesus

In August, 2012, Spanish newspaper Heraldo published an article about amateur art restorer Cecilia Jiménez’s botched attempt at restoring a valuable old fresco painting of Jesus Christ.

An image of the ruined painting first made it to 4chan, where it was dubbed “Potato Jesus” due to it’s resemblance to a potato.

The news was posted on Reddit where it received 11,000 upvotes and 750 comments over two days. A dedicated Tumblr and Twitter account soon followed.

By mid-September, Potato Jesus had been featured on major news channels and publications in over 160 countries.

The Spanish town of Borja, where the painting is located, has experienced a tourism boom as people flocked to see the painting and purchase souvenirs.

Grumpy Cat

Tadar Sauce, a scornful looking snowshoe cat, lived in obscurity with her owner Tabatha Bundesen until Bundesen’s brother uploaded a photo of Tadar Sauce to Reddit’s /r/pics subreddit.

The Reddit post was instantly flooded with parodies and Photoshopped remixes. Some users decided to caption the pictures with comments from the cat’s presumably grumpy perspective, creating the first Grumpy Cat memes.

Grumpy Cat’s popularity continued growing as news of the new feline phenomenon appeared on internet news sites.

Grumpy Cat’s official Facebook fan page now boasts over 1.1 million fans.

Overly Attached Girlfriend

In June 2012, Justin Bieber held a sing-off contest to promote his celebrity fragrance “Girlfriend”.

Laina Walker, now better known as the Overly Attached Girlfriend, submitted a cover of Bieber’s single “Boyfriend” with rewritten clingy, stalker-like lyrics.

The lyrics coupled with Walker’s wide-eyed insane looking expression throughout the video drew massive attention to the video, which received 1.35 million views in under 48 hours.

On the following day, a Reddit thread linking to the video titled “Overly Attached Girlfriend” generated more than 800 comments in the span of seven hours, including the first appearances of the meme, featuring a screenshot of Walker staring into the camera.

A month later, a man bearing a striking resemblance to Walker posted a photo of himself on Reddit, which created the Overly Attached Boyfriend meme. Other memes stemming from Overly Attached Girlfriend include Misunderstood Girlfriend and Underly Attached Girlfriend, an image macro of actress Kristen Stewart staring blankly into a camera.

Mckayla Is Unimpressed

Olympic vaulter McKayla Maroney had to settle for a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics after tripping on her second vault.

While on the winner’s podium, a Reuters photographer captured a photo of Maroney scowling, looking entirely… unimpressed.

Buzzfeed compiled a gallery of photographs titled “McKayla Maroney Falls, Lets Out Her Inner ‘Mean Girl’.” The post gained 170,000 views within the first 48 hours, leading to a Quickmeme page with the first ever McKayla Is Unimpressed image macro.

A Mckayla Is Unimpressed thread was created in the /r/adviceanimals subreddit and gathered hundreds of submissions, including the first wave of Photoshopped remixes, featuring McKayla being unimpressed by a variety of situations.

Compilations of remixes and macros found their way onto internet culture sites and the Wall Street Journal, who lauded internet hit for being the “Olympic’s first breakout meme”.

Gangnam Style

Korean pop singer Park Jae Sung, better known as PSY, released a dance-pop single “Gangnam Style” in mid-July, 2012.

The song immediately dominated Korean charts, search portals and online music stores with its catchy lyrics and highly entertaining music video. The success of the video was attributed to its iconic and easily learned “Horse Riding Dance”.

A week later, the video went viral on YouTube, gaining an average of 9 million views a day. Within the span of just two months, Gangnam Style had earned the most views and likes in the entire history of Youtube.

The video has so many views that YouTube had to upgrade its view counter, which wasn’t equipped to handle numbers above 2.14 billion views.

The unfathomable popularity of the video launched PSY into the global spotlight, leading to interviews on news channels worldwide and a contract with American record label Schoolboy Records.

Parodies and tributes of the popular song appeared all over the world, from simple bedroom dance covers to elaborate localized versions filmed with professional equipment and hundreds of actors.

As of November 2015, the video has 2.5 billion views and 10 million likes.

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2013

The Boston Bombings prove social media’s ability to be used for good in times of crisis. The words “Twerk” and “Selfie” are added to the dictionary this year, the former after Miley Cyrus sheds her past as a Disney star and gyrates her glutes into a new identity as a provocative sex icon.

Unflattering Beyoncé

Unflattering Beyoncé is an exploitable Photoshop meme created from unflattering screen captures during Beyonce’s performance at Superbowl XLVII.

In February, 2013, Buzzfeed published an image gallery titled “The 33 Fiercest Moments From Beyoncé’s Halftime Show”.

The day after, Beyoncé’s publicist emailed Buzzfeed’s editors, requesting the post be removed because the photos were unflattering. Instead of doing so, Buzzfeed drove more attention the post, this time including a redacted image of the email.

The request led to more unwanted attention from a number of prominent news outlets. As the images spread, Photoshopped images began surface across the internet, the highlights of which were featured on prominent internet culture news sites.

Wrecking Ball

Wrecking Ball is a 2013 pop song by singer Miley Cyrus.

The music video for Wrecking Ball features Miley Cyrus in various states of undress demolishing a room with a sledge hammer and riding on a wrecking ball.

The music video gained 12.3 million views within the first 24 hours.

Within hours, parodies and remixes of the video surfaced, mostly featuring Miley Cyrus riding on other spherical objects.

In the weeks that followed, parody compilations were featured on entertainment sites such as Billboard, Adweek and Collegehumour.

The meme received a second wave popularity that year, when numerous trick or treaters sporting costumes inspired by the video, with many choosing to dress as the wrecking ball.

Harlem Shake

Harlem Shake is a 2012 heavy bass track by Bauuer. In January 2013, YouTuber FilthyFrank uploaded a video of four people dressed in latex suits dancing to the song.

Other YouTubers soon began uploading their own versions of Harlem Shake. The videos follow the same format – one person in the room dances while no one else notices or reacts, then the bass drops, the video jumpcuts to the entire room furiously dancing.

By mid February, there were approximately 12,000 Harlem Shake videos on YouTube, with a total of over 44 million views.

Doge

“Doge” is internet slang for “Dog”, most commonly used to describe an image macro featuring a surprised looking Shiba Inu.

Doge is captioned with internal monologue expressing sarcastic amazement in broken English. A stylistic characteristic of the meme is the use of a multi-coloured comic sans font for captions.

The meme is used as an image response to convey feigned amazement or to mock someone for bragging.

Doge responses spread rapidly across the internet, appearing on mainstream media and inspiring dedicated Tumblr and Twitter accounts.

In December of 2013, an alternative cryptocurrency called Dogecoin was released. It is currently the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin.

The Fox

The Fox is an electronic dance song by Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis.

It was intended to be an anti-hit as satire of Top 40 pop hits, but it ironically went viral and became a Top 10 Billboard track as well as Ylvis’s international breakout hit.

The song’s popularity stems from the contrast between its professional production value and its nonsensical, intentionally terrible lyrics.

The day after its release, it was uploaded to the /r/videos subreddit and hit the front page after receiving 7000 upvotes. Within the week, the video had been featured on CNN, NBC, The Guardian, Gawker, Wired and The Huffington Post.

Because much of the world had not heard of Ylvis prior to What Does The Fox Say, many believed the song was a sincere attempt at a pop hit and the oddity of the music was simply a “Norwegian Thing”. The debate over the authenticity of the song generated most of its initial attention.

The video reached 100 million views in only 35 days.

The Fox climbed to number 8 on the US Top 100 Billboard charts. It enjoyed greater success in its native country of Norway, where it spent three weeks at number one.

Ylvis’s new found international fame led to appearances on The Ellen Show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and The Today Show as well as a slew of other international programs.

Covers, tributes and parodies of the song surfaced almost immediately, including a cover on Glee.

As of November 2015, The Fox has 557 million views on YouTube.

Twerking

Twerking is a West African dance move that has made its way into popular culture, largely as a sexualized dance move in Hip Hop culture.

The move has appeared in popular culture since the early 2000s, after it was mentioned in the Ying Yang Twin’s song “Whistle While You Twurk”.

Twerking never gained traction till Miley Cyrus released a video of her twerking in a unicorn suit in 2013 to the 2011 dance track “Wop”.

The video went viral and took both the dance move and “Wop” with it, putting “Wop” back on the charts and sparking a wave of twerk videos.

Vine user “Twerk Team”, a group of five female dancers skilled in the art of twerking, contributed to the spread of the phenomenon with their dance videos.

By the end of the year, twerking had become a mainstay not just in hip-hop music videos but in hip-hop culture, inspiring Rapper Juicy J’s $50,000 scholarship for “the girl who can twerk the best” and the essence of Nicki Minaj’s career.

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2014

2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge became the largest recorded instance of a viral internet phenomenon being used for good, permanently improving the lives of ALS sufferers for centuries to come. Kim Kardashian’s attempt to go viral proved that virality can be coaxed, but never controlled after her memes proved to be less about admiration and more about light hearted mockery.

Twitch Plays Pokemon

Twitch Plays Pokemon was a crowdsourced attempt at completing the game Pokemon Red conducted on video streaming website Twitch.

In February 2014, an anonymous Australian programmer launched the game on Twitch. The stream quickly became on the most popular streams on Twitch, with an average of 80,000 viewers at any given moment.

Viewers could participate in gameplay by entering controls in the stream’s chatbox.

The large number of concurrent commands combined with the input lag due to technical limitations of the system led to incredibly erratic gameplay, making the game much longer and harder than a normal playthrough would be but also much more entertaining to watch.

Twitch Plays Pokemon was soon covered by multiple new channels including Ars Technica, who described the gameplay as “Mesmerizing”.

On Reddit, a growing community of fans created fan art, songs and an entire parody religion dedicated to the game.

The game was completed 16 days later after 122 million commands from 1.1 million players. The stream is still live, now played with subsequent releases of the Pokemon series.

The game was awarded a Game Award in the “Best Fan Creation” category.

Pharrell’s Hat

At the 2014 Grammy Awards, Pharrell appeared wearing an overly large mountie hat from designer label Vivienne Westwood.

Within minutes, dedicated Twitter account @pharrellshat sent out its first tweet and Buzzfeed released an article titled “Pharrell’s Hat Is The Most Important Thing At The Grammys”.

Fast food chain Arby’s, who sports a logo bearing strong resemblance to Pharrell’s hat, tweeted Pharrell during the Grammy’s, jokingly  asking for their hat back. The tweet received 78 thousand retweets and 51 thousand likes.

The unusual hat became one of 2014’s most recurring jokes, spawning image remixes, typically depicting Pharrell as Woody from Toy Story, a Park Ranger or a Canadian Mountie.

Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a dare game where a participant must pour a bucket of ice water over his/her head before challenging three of his/her friends to participate in the challenge within 24 hours.

Should someone decline to participate, he/she would have to donate a sum to charity. Though the challenge began with an option to donate to any charity, it quickly became focused on awareness and charities contributing to ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

The origins of the challenge are unclear but the earliest instances of ice bucket videos were attributed to motocross racer Jeremy McGrath in June 2014.

The challenge spread quickly across YouTube and Vine, gaining traction when celebrities began participating and nominating fellow celebrities.

Notable participants include Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pratt and Bill Gates, who built an elaborate contraption to dump the ice bucket on himself.

The challenge resulted in a $220 million donation to ALS research, which has been reported to have significantly advanced progress towards a cure.

Kim Kardashian Breaks The Internet

In a deliberate attempt to create a meme, Kim Kardashian appeared nude on the cover of Paper magazine in a photo focused on her sizable glutes with the caption “Break The Intetnet”.

Kardashian first shared the photo on Twitter and Instagram, gaining 462,000 likes and 15,000 comments on the latter.

Later that day, Kardashian’s husband, Kanye West, tweeted image of the magazine cover with the hashtag #ALLDAY, accumulating 68,000 retweets and 60,000 favourites in just 24 hours.

The hashtags #BreakTheInternet #ThingsThatLookLikeKimKardashiansBum began trending within the day, with users posting images of objects that resemble Kardashian’s posterior such as tomatoes or bowling balls.

Photoshopped images started surfacing as the hashtags trended. Notably, an image of Kardashian’s torso Photoshopped onto a horse’s body to look like a centaur received wide attention.

The news was covered on virtually all celebrity and entertainment sites as well as reputable outlets like CNN and The Washington Post.

Attractive Convict

In June 2014, a mugshot of convicted criminal Jeremy Meeks began circulating on Facebook.

Meeks’ mugshot received 56,000 likes and 16,400 comments within 24 hours, mostly of women fawning over his attractive appearance.

The following day, Fox40 news shared the image on their facebook account, amassing over 300,000 likes and 65,000 comments.

The mugshot found its way to Reddit as an image macro called “Ridiculously Photogenic Thug”, captioned with comments about his attractiveness from Facebook or with jokes referencing criminal tropes.

Twitter users began posting Photoshopped images of Meeks as a model in fashion advertisements, tweeting many large fashion brands to request that they hire Meeks as a model.

The meme evolved into a larger meme dubbed Attractive Convict, with other mugshots of attractive felons used as image macros. This further resulted in a trending hashtag #FelonCrushFriday.

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2015

The year is 2015. Memes and pop culture have become completely intertwined, with the biggest memes of the year all stemming from celebrities. There has been a sizable shift from static to video memes as it becomes easier to produce video content. As 2016 approaches, the world awaits with bated breath, watching for the next meme’s rise over the horizon.

Unexpected John Cena

John Cena is a professional WWE wrestler who became a meme in mid 2015.

Unexpected John Cena refers to a video clip that loudly announced “And his name is John Cena!” as his theme music blares in the background.

It was initially used at the end of Vines as a jumpscare but the catchphrase from the video eventually found its way into gifs and image remixes.

Unexpected John Cena videos typically begin with a clip leading up to the announcement or unveiling of a character. The video then cuts to the John Cena video clip, which is typically significantly louder than the segment preceding it.

Another frequently recurring trope in the Unexpected John Cena meme sarcastically pokes fun at John Cena’s purported invisibility, referencing a line in his WWE theme song that goes “You Can’t See Me, My Time Is Now!”

The meme was inspired by a prank call by Z Morning Zoo, a radio program from New Jersey, where DJs repeatedly prank called a mother asking her to subscribe to a paid wrestling channel. The announcement in Unexpected John Cena videos are an excerpt from this prank.

There are currently 11,000 Vines and 18,000 YouTube videos of Unexpected John Cena.

Drake’s Hotline Bling Dance

Hotline Bling is a 2015 single by rapper and R&B artist Drake.

In the music video for Hotline Bling, Drake performs an unusual dance that critics described as “awkward” and “dorky”.

The video was almost immediately shared and mentioned across social media a total of nearly 500,000 times.

The internet repaid Drake for his video by spawning multiple memes and remixes.

The the most popular memes were #DrakeAlwaysOnBeat and #DanceLikeDrake.

The former features excerpts of Drake dancing synced to all sorts of music from salsa to the Harry Potter theme song with the joke being how Drake’s dance moves always miraculously sync to the music, regardless of what is is.

#DanceLikeDrake videos are primarily Vines of people perfroming Drake’s Hotline Bling dance.

Other remixes include video edits of Drake’s dance. One popular edit puts a tennis racquet in Drake’s hands and making it look like he’s playing tennis with himself.

Prattkeeping

Chris Pratt starred in the 2015 film Jurassic World as a dinosaur trainer and researcher named Owen.

When dealing with dinosaurs, Owen often strikes his signature pose – a crouching stance with his arms wide apart, most iconically in a scene with Pratt calming three agitated velociraptors.

Zookeepers around the globe began uploading pictures of themselves replicating the scene with animals in their care, creating Prattkeeping.

The Daily What, Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post and a host of others responded to the photo fad by featuring Prattkeeping compilations.

JUST DO IT

JUST DO IT is a video clip of actor Shia LaBeouf delivering an intense motivational speech while gesticulating wildly in front of a green screen.

The video was recorded as part of LaBeouf’s collaboration with a project called #Introductions with Central Saint Martins, a London arts college. Students could script any 30 second dialogue of their choosing and have LaBeouf perform it in. The infamous motivational clip was penned by a student named Joshua Parker.

The clip was uploaded to YouTube in May 2015 and accumulated more than 1.4 million views in its first 4 days online.

The green screen backdrop made the footage simple to edit and hundreds of remixes appeared online within the month.

The original video has close to 7 million views on YouTube while popular remixes have an average of 4 million views.

An autotuned remix by YouTuber Scmoyoho has more view than the original with nearly 9 million views.

Adele Hangs Up

Singer songwriter Adele released the soulful ballad “Hello” in October 2015 accompanied with a sombre sepia-toned music video.

In one scene of the video, Adele receives a call on her clamshell phone, says hello, then hangs up seconds later, furiously flipping the phone shut.

The clip has set off a stream of remixes featuring Adele calling someone and then rudely hanging up.

The first popular remix showed Adele receiving a call from Lionel Richie and currently has 5.8 million views. It was created by splicing a scene of Richie picking up the phone in a music video for his song also titled Hello.

Another notable remix appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show. In this skit, Ellen Degeneres pretends to hold a conversation with Adele, responding to the lyrics in her song. This video amassed 6 million views in two weeks.

Jon Tan

My coffee expenses and my office rental are one and the same.

Terrified of mathematics and carbohydrates.

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