The 100 Memes That Defined The 2010s

From planking to VSCO girls.

Debora Westra for BuzzFeed News

This decade, memes became something not just for a handful of internet nerds who lurked on message boards — memes are now for everyone. The online culture of this decade hasn’t just changed the words we use, it’s changed how we express ourselves. Huge technological shifts of the 2010s led to this: widespread smartphone adoption and the rise of newfangled social media platforms like Vine. Memes also became a business — brands used meme-speak and accounts like @fuckjerry made big bucks by reposting memes.

To determine the ranking of this list, we considered the overall popularity of a meme, its longevity, and historical importance — what kind of impact it had on other memes and internet culture. Here they are:

100. Yodeling Walmart Kid

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In 2018, 10-year-old Mason Ramsey sang a Hank Williams song in a Walmart, and the internet went nuts. But this time, the reaction to a precocious kid singing somewhat oddly (a sort of yodeling) was very different than it was in 2011 when Rebecca Black sang “Friday.” Instead of mocking the kid, the internet loved him, declaring the clip a “bop” that “slaps.” This is the change that happened over the decade: Instead of relishing cringe, the more memetic and ironic thing to do is embrace and love something like a child yodeling in a big-box store. Ramsey has gone on to have some version of mainstream success, performing country music to live crowds, and, well, good for him. —K.N.

99. Moth Memes

Twitter: @thebobpalmer

Much like a moth is drawn to a flame, we were drawn to memes about moths and their unquenchable thirst for lamps in summer 2018. They got their start with a Reddit post that July, a close-up photo someone took of a moth, which people soon began captioning and photoshopping until it took on a life of its own as a meme. There’s really not much you can say about moth memes, besides that they are funny and good and I will love them until I die. —J.R.

98. VSCO Girls

Every generation has its subcultures, and in 2019, Gen Z’s was undoubtedly VSCO girls. The aesthetic comes with a number of signifiers: scrunchies (piled high on the wrist), Hydro Flask water bottles (covered in stickers), puka shell necklaces, oversized T-shirts, Crocs, Fjällräven backpacks, metal straws (save the turtles!), Carmex lip balm, and the ubiquitous catchphrases, “sksksk — and I oop.” The easy-breezy look, named for the photo editing app VSCO, was essentially “Tumblr girl” meets “basic white girl.” Though the style became trendy in earnest through Instagram and internet stars like Emma Chamberlain, it catapulted to popularity (and mockery) on TikTok. —J.R.

97. Duck Army

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Kevin Innes, a Norwegian twentysomething, was in a store with his girlfriend one day when they came across a bin of squeaking duck-shaped (technically, the toy is a pelican) dog toys. To embarrass his girlfriend, he pressed down on the whole bin, and an unholy cacophony that sounds like the wheezing sum total of human misery was released. Innes posted to Facebook, then YouTube, and then someone else ripped his YouTube video and posted it to Vine, where it went viral. The beauty of this 2015 meme was a perfect Vine: absurd, easy to understand, surprising, and based on something that happened in real life. —K.N.

96. Deep-Fried Memes

You might not even know what they're called if you saw them, but a deep-fried meme is one of those pictures that has been screenshotted, edited, and reuploaded across Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit so many times that has started to degrade in quality. At first this deep-frying process was largely genuine, kids refiltering and remixing each other's images. But as the phenomenon became more known, a second wave of ironically deep-fried images started to appear. It's a fairly silly thing on its surface, but it also speaks to the innate desire for people to share stuff online. If Instagram had a share button, there's a good chance this sort of thing would have never started happening in the first place. The walled culs-de-sac of proprietary platforms will never be able to stop the world's teens from sharing a picture of Peter Griffin from Family Guy smoking a huge blunt. —R.B.

95. Twitter Sign Bunny

| ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄| vaccines save lives you stupid motherfucker |___________| (\__/) || (•ㅅ•) || /   づ

A series of ASCII image memes popped up on Twitter this decade: “Howdy, I’m the sheriff of,” “In this house we…,” “got dat” cat, a stick figure falling off a building, or even the simple ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ or (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻. These work in part because they visually take up a lot of space on the Twitter timeline, making them stick out and be more likely to be interacted with or remembered. Plus, there implies some element that the poster has some technical abilities to be able to summon the ASCII. But it’s the bunny that’s had staying power over those other ones. —K.N.

94. Doggos and Puppers

This is Rey. She’s a very puptective doggo mommo. Will grrbork bork at any potential threat. 13/10 heartwarming as h*ck

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, but only around 2015 did they evolve into “doggos” and “puppers.” “Doggo-speak,” as NPR called it, arose in Facebook groups like “Dogspotting” before exploding on Twitter with the @dog_rates Twitter account. The lingo is characterized by cutesy nicknames for dogs (Samoyeds are “floofs” or “clouds,” corgis are “loaves,” any huge fluffy dog is a big boofin’ woofer) and onomatopoeia (a doggo can “bork,” or stick their tongues out and do a “blep” or “mlem”). To me, it’s a fascinating as "h*ck" thing that an entire dialect, with all its own grammar and syntax and vocabulary rules, could spring up in an organic way online. —J.R.

93. Planking

CC BY-SA 3.0 / Donkey100 / Via

In 2011, everyone was taking pictures lying facedown on the ground, rigid as a board. It was a thing, and that thing was called planking. Plankers would assume the pose in unexpected places — atop a car, inside a supermarket freezer, even across two camels — then get a buddy to snap a picture. The trend got so big The Office even did a cold open about it. Soon, it spun off into other photo pose trends, including owling and leisure diving, but it also sadly led to at least one death.

Eight years later, these photo memes can feel a bit old-school, but they represent a key moment when ready access to cameras (both the digital kind and iPhones, which were still pretty new) was still a novelty, and people were leaning into ways to use it creatively. —J.R.

92. Bros Icing Bros

The point of bros icing bros was simple: At any point during the day, present a warm bottle of Smirnoff Ice to your bro, and he has to get down on one knee and chug the cursed beverage. However, if he produces his own bottle immediately, he is exempted, and it is you who must chug. This prank was the peak of IRL-memeing in 2011. Smirnoff denied any sort of marketing stunt, which makes sense if you consider that the central conceit is that being forced to drink a Smirnoff Ice is a form of punishment. The meme threatened a resurgence in 2017, but never really caught on again. —K.N.

91. Bone App The Teeth

Her: babe I want sushi Me: bone app the teeth

In 2016, someone posted a pic of white bread just absolutely smothered in corn and captioned it with a phrase that ignited a million memes: “bone app the teeth.” Those four words — sometimes edited to “bone apple tea,” “bone ape tit,” or even more bonkers iterations — became the battle cry for shitty food porn posters everywhere. It’s a pretty simple meme, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at a picture of Goldfish sushi or a chicken noodle watermelon without completely losing it. —J.R.

90. Clowns

Instagram: @davie_dave

Remember that brief moment in fall 2016 when towns around the US were overtaken by mass hysteria over scary clowns being spotted in the woods (which then immediately stopped being a concern when Trump got elected and everyone suddenly had other stuff to worry about)? Yeah, that was a thing that happened. Clowns had quite a ~moment~ in the latter half of the 2010s. Less than a year after the clown sightings, a remake of the horror movie It came out, prompting a ton of memes of Pennywise in the sewer and dancing (and, of course, people wanting to fuck the It clown). The clown memes just kept going from there, with clown photos being used as reaction images to illustrate our most dumbass moments. Sometimes I wonder if those clowns are still in the woods. I hope they’re happy. —J.R.

89. Kim Kardashian Breaks the Internet

Jean-Paul Goude /

In November 2014, Kim Kardashian appeared on the cover of Paper magazine baring her whole entire ass. It went massively viral, and people immediately got to work photoshopping it into a centaur, Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” (which had just come out), the turkey in a Norman Rockwell painting, you name it. The phrase on the cover, “break the internet,” would go on to become timeworn, but it all started with Kim K and her big, glossy butt. —J.R.

88. Bed Intruder

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In July 2010, Antoine Dodson appeared on the local news in Alabama after a home invader attempted to assault his sister, saying: “He’s climbin’ in your windows, he’s snatchin’ your people up… So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife...” The news clip went viral, and a few days later, Dodson’s words were remixed into the auto-tuned “Bed Intruder Song,” which made it onto the Billboard 100 charts and become the most-viewed YouTube video of 2010.

“Bed Intruder Song” captured two powerful vectors that would come to define the rest of the decade: a normal person being propelled to some sort of viral fame, and a critical backlash over the exploitative race, gender, and class dynamics. At the time, some people pointed out that turning a video of poor black man expressing anguish over the attempted sexual assault of his sister was problematic. Years later, this feels even more true. Dodson went on to a strange post-virality career, with a reality show that never got off the ground, celebrity boxing matches, controversial statements about being gay, and a Trump endorsement. —K.N.

87. Alex From Target

Alex LeBoeuf / Twitter: @auscalum (deleted)

In November 2014, a young woman tweeted a photo of a teenage checkout clerk at Target with Alex on the nametag. Her tweet was simply, “YOOOOOOOO,” signaling that, well, this teen boy was cute. The tweet went viral, and people fell in love with this mysterious Alex from Target, creating memes and tributes in his image, leading anyone over the age of 23 to wonder: What the fuck is happening here?

There was some legitimate confusion over how and why Alex’s photo blew up. An internet marketing company stepped forward, claiming that it had gotten the original girl to tweet the photo of Alex as a viral marketing stunt, and seeded the meme with inorganic retweets and promotion. But the woman who made the tweet (whose Twitter account is now suspended) said she had never heard of the marketing company, and that she just randomly found the photo on Tumblr and tweeted it out, and it seems that the marketing company was trying to claim stolen viral valor.

But the ending wasn’t so great for the guy at the center of it. Alex LaBeouf, who went by Alex Lee as a stage name, eventually dropped out of high school because he had missed so many days to fly to Los Angeles for appearances on talk shows. He was homeschooled and joined the 2015 DigiTour, a tour for social media stars, mainly Vine stars at the time. In a 2017 video, he said that his managers at the time had stolen $30,000 from him, and since then he’s abandoned his public social media accounts. —K.N.

86. Insane Clown Posse's "Miracles"

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The music video for “Miracles" debuted in April 2010. The song had been kicking around since 2009, but the video is what really did it. It’s been viewed 18 million times — and watching it back in 2019, it is still just as deranged as it was when it debuted. A lot of the meme songs on this list exist in that uncanny valley of like “misunderstood banger.” I want to be clear: “Miracles” is not that. It is a nonsense song. And while it’s best remembered for its “fuckin’ magnets, how do they work" and “Magic everywhere in this bitch" lines, I would argue the best part is the line about pelicans: “I fed a fish to a pelican at Frisco Bay / It tried to eat my cellphone, he ran away / And music is magic, pure and clean / You can feel it and hear it but it can't be seen.” Damn, that’s real. —R.B.

85. First-World Problems

Thinkstock / Twitter: @ughshaye

When you’re eating nachos and one stabs the roof of your mouth, when one pillow is too low but two pillows is too high; these sorts of issues — annoying, but generally indicating your life is pretty easy and privileged — were best summarized by the early-2010s macro image “First-World Problems.” A lot of things feel dated about “first-world problems” memes, ranging from the style of the image all the way to the use of the concept of countries being first world vs. third world. But the meme was also one of the first concerning social privilege, which many people would learn about for the first time in the 2010s. —J.R.

84. Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge

i screwed up. #kyliejennerchallenge #uhoh 😷

Kylie Jenner dominated the 2010s, particularly with the launch of her Kylie Lip Kits in 2015. The now-billionaire’s lips had been the subject of gossip and envy that year when she suddenly debuted thick, pillowy lips (the result of lip fillers, though she denied it until two years later). The star kicked off something of a lip-plumping craze, and teens starting trying to plump their own lips by sticking them in shot glasses and sucking till they swelled up. Needless to say, it did not come doctor-recommended.

The rise in popularity of injectable fillers and the instabaddie takeover are inextricably linked to the Kardashian/Jenner family's influence. Each trend made way for the other, clearing the way for a bunch of teens to damage their faces to score Kylie-level lips. —J.R.

83. Sad Keanu

Keanu Reeves kickstarted the decade as a meme after a paparazzi photo of him eating a sandwich on a park bench was shared on 4chan. “Instead of Chuck Norris, let's make Keanu Reeves a meme,” one redditor wrote as the image started to spread. Which is interesting to think about — that this particular decade, one so heavily shaped by increasingly radicalized social media platforms, began with users of heavily male communities like 4chan and Reddit deciding to abandon an aggressively masculine meme like Chuck Norris and instead embrace a picture of disheveled loneliness. Splash News, the agency behind the photo, has attempted to remove the picture from the internet via DMCA takedowns, but Reeves and his sandwich have proved too popular (and photoshoppable) to really scrub away. As for how Reeves feels about the whole thing, at the time he told the BBC, “Do I wish that I didn't get my picture taken while I was eating a sandwich on the streets of New York? Yeah.” —R.B.

82. "Haven't Heard That Name in Years"

Twitter: @goIfkart

As you read this list, you’re probably at various points looking at a meme, taking a drag on a cigarette, and saying, “Gangnam Style? Haven’t heard that name in years.” —K.N.

81. Ice Bucket Challenge

If you dumped a bucket of ice over your head in summer 2014, it was probably to raise money for ALS research in the Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge involved participants dousing themselves in ice water on video, then nominating others to either do the same or make a donation to fund ALS research. Many did both, using the viral videos to promote the cause, and the ALS Association wound up raising more than $100 million in a month. The rare meme that did demonstrable good. Sadly, the man who inspired the meme died in December 2019. —J.R.

80. “I'm in Me Mum's Car, Broom Broom”

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A Vine of a British girl in her mum’s car (broom broom) was a perfect Vine: It makes no sense, it doesn’t follow any known comedy format, it’s vaguely cringe, and yet it’s so silly it’s guaranteed to make you laugh. The brief and glorious life of Vine thrived on these moments of surprising and unexpected humor. TikTok is the closest thing we have now to Vine, and yet it requires a certain knowledge of its memes and tropes to “get” it. “I’m in me mum’s car, broom broom” only requires you to be a human with a pulse to find Tish Simmonds’ 2014 masterpiece funny. —K.N.

79. The Rent Is Too Damn High

Kathy Kmonicek / AP

The thing about Jimmy McMillan’s slogan for the 2010 New York gubernatorial campaign is that he’s absolutely correct: The rent IS too damn high, and he was accurately predicting the coming housing market crisis in New York City. McMillan was a minor local politics figure, having run for mayor a few years earlier. But it was the televised debates for the governor's race in 2010 that brought him national fame for his flamboyant facial hair, gloves, and one-issue campaign platform. He was parodied on Saturday Night Live, and a meme was born. —K.N.

78. “What Does the Fox Say?”

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Few music videos of 2010s hit it bigger than one by Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis, as they tried to answer a perplexing question: What does the fox say? The video — which featured a cast of people dressed up in animal costumes and a whole slew of sounds a fox might purportedly say — was named the top trending video on YouTube in 2013. It’s a video that feels definitively old, and it’s hard to imagine it coming out now and being earnestly enjoyed, but we were doing lots of things more earnestly back then. And I’d bet you anything you still know the words. —J.R.

77. Hot Dogs or Legs

Showing off your tan in 2013? The trendiest vacation humblebrag in 2013 was snapping a pic of your thighs and captioning it “hot dogs or legs.” The meme first went viral on Tumblr but had a long life on Instagram afterward. This was mostly annoying, unless it was actually hot dogs, which was pretty funny. –J.R.

76. Darude's "Sandstorm"

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One of the bright spots about the 2010s is the way that young people immediately understood and identified the parts of shit culture of the ’90s and ’00s, and mercilessly mocked it. Guy Fieri, Shrek, Bee Movie, and the hit 1999 techno song “Sandstorm” by Darude. To be fair, “Sandstorm” is probably the best and most well-known trance song, but still, it’s incredible silly. It also became a huge meme to namedrop the song in the comment sections of random YouTube videos. What’s silliest about it is the idea that it has lyrics (it does not), and they’re simply dun dun dun dun dun dun DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN dun dun dun dun. —K.N.

75. *Record Scratch*

*record scratch* *freeze frame* Yup, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.

*record scratch* *freeze frame* Yup, that's me. I’m a meme you could not stop seeing all over your feed in 2016. The meme was based on the clichéd movie trope in which a protagonist would begin to explain how they got themself into a ~wacky situation~. The meme spread quickly, with Twitter users aligning the text with all sorts of images. This was not the first text-based Twitter meme, nor would it be the last, but its takeover was so big it eventually became a Twitter trope in and of itself. —J.R.

74. Double Rainbow

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What makes Paul Vasquez’s effusive awe at seeing a double rainbow distinctly from 2010 as opposed to 2019 is how it’s barely what we’d call a “meme” now. It’s a viral video, sure, and it was one of the first truly huge and popular ones. In many ways, even though it happened in 2010, it resembled the memes of the 2000s more: It went viral after Jimmy Kimmel’s show account tweeted it, and it spread over email and Gchat from person to person.

The things we think of as memes now are mostly defined by being iterative: a photo you can write new captions over and over ad nauseum and can mean a million different things. But “Double Rainbow” is just a funny video – you watch it once, you laugh, and that’s it. It’s more of the Tosh.0 version of the internet where there are funny things to be found than the Distracted Boyfriend or Pepe the frog version where there are existing memes that we make our own meaning out of. The monetization of the video was also (by current standards) primitive: He appeared in a Microsoft ad. —K.N.

73. Mannequin Challenge

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There were a lot of dance crazes and video fads in the 2010s — the suddenly widespread use of phones with cameras made it possible — but few grew as big as the Mannequin Challenge of 2016. The videos involved standing as still as a statue, usually with the song “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd playing. The meme’s origins lie with a group of Florida high schoolers, and within just a few weeks there were Mannequin Challenge videos from pro sports teams, then–presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and quite possibly your family on Thanksgiving. The Mannequin Challenge went viral because it was the stationary dance craze version of the “Cha Cha Slide” — it was family-friendly, everyone could catch on pretty quickly, and it was something that could bring everyone together. —J.R.

72. "Harlem Shake"

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In early 2013, a dance meme was born. Set to the techno song “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, the premise was to start off dancing very mildly, and when the beat drops, all hell breaks loose and a large group of people dance wildly. It’s stupid, I know. As quickly as the meme came to life, it died: A few days after the first few videos went viral, BuzzFeed’s office did a version (Ryan is in the horse mask; I run and hide into a conference room), and six days after that, the Today show anchors did one, which seemed to everyone to signal the end of the meme. But the real nail in the coffin was in 2017 when FCC chair Ajit Pai did a video to help explain the end of Net Neutrality. —K.N.

71. Bottle Flipping

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If you were a teen in 2016, you probably flipped a bottle or two. The trend really took off when high school student Mike Senatore executed a flawless flip at his school talent show to rapturous applause. After that, everyone was flipping bottles, and a “replica bottle” signed by Senatore himself fetched over $11,000 on eBay. Teens do all sorts of kooky things, but to this day, it’s hard to watch a video of a perfect bottle flip and NOT feel unbridled joy and triumph. —J.R.

70. Bronies

Katie Notopoulos / BuzzFeed News

The world first learned of bronies when in 2011 Wired wrote about the adult men who loved the rebooted My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic show. For the next five years, bronies seemed to dominate every aspect of internet culture — they were rampant on Reddit, 4chan, DeviantArt, Twitter, Tumblr, and even IRL conventions (and of course, horrible, horrible versions of pony porn, known as “clop”). The fandom morphed through every phase of an online community, including a small faction of fascist bronies, creating fan art of the colorful horses in Nazi uniforms.

No group since furries has been as routinely mocked as the bronies. And yet, now that they’ve sort of faded away slightly, we sort of miss them. —K.N.



68. Bee Movie

According to all known laws of memes, there is no way Bee Movie should have been able to go viral. And yet, posting the entire script to the 2007 movie somehow became a big Tumblr meme. The reasons for this semi-flop movie becoming a meme aren’t totally clear. Perhaps it was the realization of how grotesque the plot is (a bee and a human woman fall in love), perhaps it was that star Jerry Seinfeld was having a moment. Or maybe because it was just because it’s a random and shitty movie, which is inherently funny. Unlike beloved childhood characters Shrek or SpongeBob, Bee Movie’s mediocrity is what makes it memeable. The crummier, the more nonsensical the meme, the better. The layers of ironic detachment have to be so thick that to pretend to love Bee Movie and post its entire script is something only someone with a truly online brain in 2015 could be capable of. —K.N.

67. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Shruggie)

Fun fact: The symbol in the center of the shruggie is a Japanese Katakana character called “Tsu.” It’s commonly used in Japanese fiction to represent the end of a line of dialogue. Kind of perfect, right? Nothing left to say? Shruggie time. The shruggie was the perfect emoticon of the Obama era: a slightly worried-looking, yet pleasantly numb smirk, throwing its hands up at everything’s lack of meaning. Also, it just looks really cool! Things are going to probably only get worse over the next decade, so I say we bring the shruggie back. Let’s all really get into casual nihilism. I mean, everything’s fucked, so why not, right? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ —R.B.

66. Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"

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The infectious pop song became a hit in early 2012, and by late spring, the distinctive rhyme scheme of the chorus had become a meme. Example: This still of Marty McFly and his mom in Back to the Future: “Hey I just met you / and this is crazy / but I’m from the future / and I’m your baby.” Or a tweet by @jwherrman: “HEY, I JUST MET YOU / AND MY DOG IS CRAZY / WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF / HE HAS RABIES.” —K.N.

65. Dashcon

There was a time right around the middle of this last decade where the internet was a largely more innocent place. Nerdy fandom subcultures built around TV shows like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and Supernatural weren't quite in the mainstream yet, nor did people fully understand the realities of what happens when you bring a bunch of people from the internet together in real life. That giddy naivete died with Dashcon. The unofficial Tumblr-based convention wasn't quite a Fyre Festival–level disaster, but the level of secondhand embarrassment it generated seems to have killed an entire mode of internet use. One could even argue that Tumblr — the little social network that could — lost its last bit of grip on the larger culture of the internet. From the sad photos of cosplayers sitting in a weird ball pit to the haunting photos of empty of showrooms to accusations later of fraud, for fandom internet there was a before and after Dashcon. Based on things like Tanacon and Fyre Festival, though, it seems like those who do not learn from Dashcon are doomed to repeat Dashcon. —R.B.

64. Galaxy Brain

This 2017 meme has staying power because it’s so simple and applies to so many things. The format shows several different concepts in increasing order of brainpower, culminating with something ridiculous. It speaks so perfectly to how we argue and discuss any topic online: a basic idea, a smarter take, slowly devolving into anarchy. —K.N.

63. Loss.JPG

There's really no way to sugarcoat what loss.JPG is. It's a four-panel web comic about a miscarriage that has evolved into some weird Where's Waldo? game played on social media. The story behind the infamous comic is that Ctrl-Alt-Del creator Tim Buckley wanted to make his series more mature. His audience recoiled at the mature storyline and found the whole thing incredibly lame. To make matters worse, the text-less comic was uploaded to the site with the filename loss.JPG. There's a good chance you've come across loss.JPG parodies and never even realized that's what they were. Buckley has spoken a bit about the meme over the years. “Perhaps I had miscalculated my demographic’s ability/willingness to approach such a sensitive subject matter,” he said. “As much as I hate to admit it because I certainly don’t want to make light of the subject matter itself, I found them quite amusing.”

But still the meme remains. And there's a good possibility it will continue to stick around well into the next decade, if only because it's too tasteless to ever really address directly. —R.B.

62. Baby Shark

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The origins of why a techno version of a public domain campfire song became accurately described as “‘Sicko Mode’ for babies” isn’t totally clear. Normally, internet culture has no interest in what the parents of young infants and toddlers are doing (gross, old people). And yet somehow the catchy story of a multigenerational shark family (doo doo doo doo) meant for babies became inescapable. In a review for the live stage show of Baby Shark, the New Yorker wrote, “It wasn’t Disney or Nickelodeon executives who plucked it from among the millions of other videos on YouTube. Instead, babies themselves made it a juggernaut, by relentlessly clicking Play on their parents’ phones. It might be the first genuine example of baby pop culture.” —K.N.

61. Infinity War Memes

TV shows and movies that become their own sort of visual meme language all tend to come from the same place emotionally. There seems to be a certain secret sauce for cracking through the zeitgeist, and it largely comes down to particular kind of glee people get from taking the piss out of something serious. Avengers: Infinity War wasn't the first Marvel film to get memed (Bruce Banner's "That's my secret, Cap" line from The Avengers was the first big one), but Infinity War hit in a big way. I'd argue that all came down to its shocking ending where literally half of everyone's favorite superheroes all died horribly. First were the Infinity War spoilers-without-context posts, followed by the "I don't feel so good, Mr. Stark" memes, and then there were even thicc Thanos memes. Ultimately, Infinity War memes didn't have a huge staying power, but it seems to have rewired the way audiences digest big blockbuster movies; if you jump on Twitter right as you get out of the theater and start retweeting memes, you suddenly don't feel so silly for crying when Spider-Man dies. To be honest, thicc Thanos is much more traumatizing. —R.B.

60. Binders Full of Women

Mitt Romney made a truly weird gaffe in a 2012 debate when he answered a question about pay equality — describing how, as governor, he asked to see more women candidates for Cabinet positions and was shown “binders full of women.” Twitter, in peak parody account mode, immediately latched onto this weird and vaguely sexist turn of phrase. A parody Tumblr was made that posted photos of binders. People flocked to Amazon listings of binders to write funny reviews.

Now it seems laughable that this was the biggest gaffe of the election, the most shocking thing a politician said. Yet in the 2012 internet ecosystem, this perfectly played out a cycle of political memes that we don’t really have the stomach for anymore. No one’s making a “grab them by the pussy” Tumblr. —K.N.

59. "Gangnam Style"

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Here’s the thing about Psy’s 2012 hit: It’s extremely good. The song is catchy, but it’s the visuals in the music video that propelled it to an international hit and the most-viewed YouTube video for years. It’s a video you want to watch more than once, one you want to show it to your friends. The fact that it was by an artist unfamiliar to most people outside of South Korea didn’t matter. The videos that would later best its YouTube record — "Despacito," "See You Again" — did so more because of how long their respective songs stayed at the top of music charts than the nature of the video itself.

But "Gangnam Style" is a wildly entertaining as a video. The sets and backup characters change constantly, Psy’s style of deadpan serious rapping while lying on an elevator floor with a man in a cowboy hate gyrating over him is funny. Psy’s pony-riding dance is funny. It was the dance, of course, that people did at weddings and high school dances and flash mobs. —K.N.

58. Forever Alone

Constructing a linear narrative out of internet content is extremely complicated — things connect across time and space in ways that make a traditional retelling almost impossible. That said, if there is a story of the internet in the 2010s, I’d argue it’s about loneliness and the bizarre and surreal ways people try to overcome it. So perhaps it’s fitting that this decade started with FunnyJunk user Azuul’s May 2010 rage comic "April Fools" — the first appearance of the phrase “forever alone.” Azuul’s swollen-faced character has more or less gone extinct, but the phrase, and more importantly, the meaning behind the phrase, have gone on to define the core irony of the internet: We are deeply isolated, yet connected enough to each other to commiserate about it. —R.B.

57. Wholesome Memes

Twitter: @tenderfiresign

Ah, wholesome memes. In a decade in which things online (and offline!) tended to be pretty bleak, wholesome memes were a salve. In these memes, the punchline lies in the genuine surprise of an online joke actually being pure and good — particularly about “loving and supporting” one’s friends, significant other, or yourself. —J.R.

56. There's Always a @dril Tweet

Without a doubt, @dril is the most important person on Twitter of the 2010s. He has a specific absurdist take on living in some modern digital hellworld where his boss doesn’t let him kiss his ferrets at work, people keep asking him about fucking the Betsy Ross flag, and his candle budget is out of control. He never breaks character — there’s never a “but seriously folks, I’m sorry about that last tweet” — and has, miraculously, nearly maintained his anonymity.

@dril’s fans have taken some of his tweets and turned them into specific terms for online existence: “Corncobbing” is when someone has been owned and refuses to admit it; “help my family is dying” is a reference to the candle budget tweet.

During and after the election, people noticed that often there was an old Trump tweet that said something almost the opposite of what he had just said, coining the phrase “there’s always a tweet.” Soon people started to notice that Trump’s tweets had an odd similarity to @dril tweets and that you could often find an old @dril tweet with a parallel message. —K.N.

55. Game of Thrones Memes

Like Infinity War, Game of Thrones became its own genre of meme. It wasn't the first peak TV drama to do so — I'd argue Breaking Bad set the stage for it — but GoT did something both Breaking Bad and movies like Infinity War didn't: It got much worse over time. Game of Thrones, especially in its early seasons, was an outrageously grim, dark show full of sex and violence, which made the memes it generated feel even more fun and risqué to share. But as the show's ratings increased and its digital footprint became nearly unavoidable, it also became a much stupider show. Somewhere in that uncanny valley of extremely serious and incredibly stupid was the perfect breeding ground for memes. Much like the army of White Walkers pouring into Winterfell in an episode shot so dark people had to desperately try to readjust their TV settings, once internet users smell blood in the water, they're going to swarm. —R.B.

54. You Know I Had to Do It to Em

Twitter: @LuckyLuciano17k (deleted)

There’s something so visceral about the YKIHTDITE photo. You either get why it’s funny, or it’s just a random photo. I also think people notice things about this photo in different orders. For instance, I notice the sock tan lines and the diamond earrings first. The tweet also begs us to answer the question of what exactly “it" is that he had to do to ‘em. Luciano’s pose — hand in hand, loafered power stance — has evolved into something akin to an internet-wide Where’s Waldo? with people photoshopping him into anything they can. People even go on pilgrimages to where the photo was taken (it’s in Florida, obviously). Like I said, I can’t explain why it’s funny, but it is. Maybe that’s the “it" that he’s doing to ‘em. —R.B.

53. Salt Bae

For a brief time in early 2017, people were transfixed by Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, who would slice steak and sprinkle salt on it, but, like, in a sexy way? (See #13) A still image of “Salt Bae” tossing on the salt like it’s fairy dust became a meme representing any time we’re being our most extra selves. (Oh yeah, and then he hugged Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at his restaurant and Marco Rubio doxed him for it. Becoming a meme is a rich tapestry.) —J.R.

52. Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams

The theory that 9/11 was an inside job, as evidenced by the fact that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams, was floated in the 2005 documentary Loose Change, which, despite being Alex Jones–level conspiracy theory, became incredibly popular on YouTube. It takes countless levels of irony to use the phrase (along with “Bush did 9/11”) as a joke. On some level, it’s not unlikely that a young person has been exposed to Loose Change or some other truther and perhaps believes it a little bit. On another level, they’re making fun of boomers and truthers who actually believe it. And then there’s the gallows humor of laughing at a tragic event that only those too young to remember could exhibit. It’s not callousness that made this a meme; it’s a reaction to the noxious conspiracy theories that flourish online and the disillusionment of an event that led to a war that’s lasted the entire lifetime of the young people who make the joke. —K.N.

51. Cringe

True cringe is something posted in earnest, and being earnest is the enemy of internet culture in the 2010s. Irony is the online currency. Cringe as a concept started on Reddit, where r/cringepics and a YouTube-focused version posted awkward and embarrassing earnest photos and videos taken from social media. R/CringeAnarchy, a more cruel board that tended to make fun of women and minorities, was banned in 2019 by Reddit (other forms of cringe boards are still active).

“Cringe” became a catchall for something embarrassing and uncool. Hillary Clinton tweeting in meme-speak was cringe. Your old LiveJournal is cringe. BuzzFeed is cringe. Everyone has posted cringe; it’s universal, and that’s why we’re so obsessed with it. —K.N.

50. Obama and Biden

Twitter: @Reverend_Scott

Following the 2016 election, when people were already feeling nostalgic for Obama’s presidency, memes about Barack Obama and Joe Biden were huge. Photos of the two would be captioned with imagined dialogue between them, usually with Biden acting like a goof or a prankster and Obama being both exasperated and amused by it. Things have changed a lot since — Biden’s folksy “Uncle Joe” popularity isn’t so much a thing now that he’s in the presidential race — causing the memes to feel pretty dated.

For the record, this is Biden’s favorite of the memes, according to his daughter. —J.R.

49. Drake/"Hotline Bling"

Drake has been a massively popular and famous rapper for the entire decade, and there’s always been memes about pop stars. But Drake has managed to be more memeable than his musical peers, except for maybe Kanye West. There’s been the “In My Feelings” dance challenge, where people dance out the side of a moving car to his 2018 hit, the “hope no one heard that” lyric from “Marvins Room,” Drake’s myriad of faces and expressions while he watches basketball games, images of his character from Degrassi: The Next Generation, and the handwritten scrawl of the cover art for his album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.

But it’s the video for “Hotline Bling” that was memed a million times. The Day-Glo colors and goofy dancing made for perfect GIFable moments. The meme was nearly killed when Donald Trump danced to it on Saturday Night Live, but a version managed to live on: Drake shaking his finger to one thing, and smiling in acceptance to another thing. —K.N.

48. Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life"

View this video on YouTube

“Bring Me to Life" is like the goth cousin of “All Star." It works for the same reason. It’s from that ridiculous Ben Affleck Daredevil movie. It has a call and response. Its sadder lyrics definitely fit my general mood about all of life right now. Also, Amy Lee can sing! This song is a genuine banger. When is the Evanescaissance coming? —R.B.

47. Ryan Gosling

Hey, girl. Ryan Gosling was more than just a Hollywood heartthrob in the 2010s — he was also the basis of multiple memes. First came the Tumblr “Feminist Ryan Gosling,” in which photos of the actor were superimposed with quotes that mixed feminist texts with shit your imaginary hot-yet-sensitive boyfriend might say (this was 2011, so the sheer concept of a man openly calling himself a feminist was still a Big Deal and kind of a pantydropper, which is bleak in retrospect!!).

On a completely different note, the actor became an online sensation again in 2013. In the Vine series “Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal,” creator Ryan McHenry would feed real-life spoonfuls of cereal to an onscreen Gosling, who would “reject” the bite by turning away or appearing to slap away the spoon during intense movie moments. In 2015, McHenry died of cancer when he was just 27 — and in his memory, Gosling made a Vine of himself actually eating cereal. —J.R.

46. ASMR

me drinking iced coffee on an empty stomach knowing it’s going to make me feel like shit

One of the decade’s hottest trends was getting a bunch of tingles down your spine. Among the biggest genres on Youtube, “autonomous sensory meridian response” videos usually involve people whispering, tapping on a glass, or even crunching on pickles straight from the jar. For some, the sounds provoke a sensory response that feels extremely calming and euphoric, and may help listeners go to sleep. Though many had long experienced the strange tingly feeling, it wasn’t until recently that people knew what to call it. Following conversations on message boards about the nameless sensation, a woman named Jennifer Allen coined the term in 2010 and made a Facebook group in its name.

From there, it entered the popular consciousness, becoming gradually more well-known over the decade. Many enjoyed it in earnest, but it also was widely parodied. There were celebrity ASMR videos, and ASMR creators became YouTube celebs in their own right. One of the biggest ones, a teen girl named Makenna Kelly, became the basis for a ton of memes. Some of these YouTubers became famous for their funnier themed ASMR videos, such as “1300s A.D. ASMR: Nun Takes Care of You in Bed (You Have the Plague).”

Self-care and wellness were major buzzwords in the 2010s, which helped popularize the relaxing videos. But perhaps the most interesting part is how social media helped many people name the bizarre neurological phenomenon they’d experienced their whole lives and find out they weren’t alone. —J.R.

45. Cropped Gay Porn

Instagram: @

Porn! It’s the central driving force of the internet (see #13). So much of the web culture created in this last decade has been defined by an explosion of diverse and global points of view suddenly entering the mainstream (and the conflicts that sometimes rise up when that happens). So it makes sense that most defining porn meme of the 2010s is cropped gay porn. It’s cheeky, it’s wildly inappropriate, and, fuck, it was so big. The meme really climaxed with the “Right in front of my salad” clip, where two adult film actors interrupt a woman peacefully eating her salad by having sex behind the kitchen counter. It’s sort of nice to think that no matter how crazy things get, there’s one thing that can still bring us all together online, and that’s porn. —R.B.

44. Cash Me Ousside

View this video on YouTube

Imagine you’re Dr. Phil. Having helped families and individuals through countless crises on your television show, you’re feeling pretty good about your abilities. There is nothing you, a couch, and a camera can’t fix. Then one day, a 13-year-old Floridian named Danielle Bregoli comes on set and rocks your world. After she calls your audience a bunch of hoes, you repeat the accusation, just making sure you heard right. When she confirms, the audience goes berserk, and Bregoli gets upset. You hear her say “Cash me ousside, howbow dah?” five magical words used to challenge the audience to a fight. The phrase lives on in infamy. And now you, Dr. Phil, are part of one of the decade’s greatest memes. —Alex Kantrowitz

43. Spider-Man Pointing at Spider-Man


It’s simple: Spider-Man points at another Spider-Man. What’s not to get. It’s us, looking at ourselves. Iconic. —K.N.

42. Nickelback

The Canadian band has miraculously remained untouched by the trend of critical reassessment and appreciation of pop music. They occupy an uncanny valley of being wildly popular AND wildly reviled by anyone who considers themselves a person of taste. For a while, they occupied a space as the punchline to something bad (there was a time in 2014 where you could use a Facebook graph search to find which of your friends “liked” Nickelback and unfriend them).

But it was the still from the video for “Photograph” where singer Chad Kroeger holds up a photo, along with the memorable lyric “look at this photograph,” that blew up in the second half of the decade. The meme ultimately died when President Donald Trump tweeted a version where the photo Kroeger holds is of Joe Biden golfing with his son and another American who also served on the board of a Ukrainian company at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Nickelback’s label filed a copyright claim, and the video has been removed from Trump’s tweet. —K.N.

41. Rebecca Black

View this video on YouTube

It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday! In 2011, then–13-year-old Rebecca Black made her debut with “Friday,” and looking forward to the weekend was never again the same. The music video went enormously viral, but it was widely dubbed the “worst song ever.”

Still, it was also a hit, and the song debuted at No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was covered on Glee, and Black even appeared as herself in Katy Perry’s music video for “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” Two years later, Black got in on the joke, releasing a sequel to “Friday” — named, of course, “Saturday.” Whether you think “Friday” slaps or is a nightmare, I’d bet you anything you’ll know all the words until you die. —J.R.

40. "Come to Brazil"

If you’ve ever clicked through on a tweet from any sort of celebrity, chances are you’ve seen the phrase “come to Brazil" written over and over in the replies. According to Know Your Meme, the first time the phrase was tweeted at a celebrity was April 2008. Then, when Justin Beieber joined Twitter in 2009, it exploded in popularity. I once asked some members of BuzzFeed Brazil why exactly it was such a common occurrence among Brazilian internet users. I was told the answer is actually pretty simple — American musicians rarely tour Brazil. But to really best understand why Brazilians mass-send it though, on a deeper level, you probably need to know the concept of "zuera," Brazilian slang for "zoeira" which means "heavy fun." It basically means that moment when a meme becomes a meme and spirals completely out of control. COME TO BRAZIL, MIGAAA. —R.B.

39. Gender Reveals

Guns or glitter? Touchdowns or tutus? One of the most inescapable party themes of the 2010s was that of the gender reveal. At gender-reveal parties, expecting parents and their loved ones gather to find out what kind of genitals their unborn child will have. This is often accomplished by cutting a cake, with pink or blue frosting revealing whether it was a boy or a girl.

Party planners tried to one-up each other, sometimes executing the big reveal using explosives — which, as you might guess, often had disastrous results. In 2018, a father-to-be accidentally ignited a wildfire in Arizona. The following year, a grandmother was killed in an explosion, and there was even a gender-reveal plane crash.

As our understanding of gender (and how it was not the same thing as sex) evolved over the decade, so did criticism and mockery of gender-reveal parties. And some people had changes of heart; in 2019, Jenna Karvunidis, the lifestyle blogger who had the first viral gender reveal in 2008, criticized the parties, which she said put “more emphasis on gender than has ever been necessary for a baby.” She added, “PLOT TWIST, the world's first gender-reveal party baby is a girl who wears suits!” —J.R.

38. *tips fedora*

Twitter: @MoonOverlord

One of the most magical things about the internet is when we all collectively realize something is a thing. For instance, sometime between 2010 and 2012, everyone on the internet realized that every town has a couple weird guys who wear fedoras, trench coats, fingerless gloves, have terrible facial hair, and talk to women like they’re 12th-century knights. Long before these dudes turned into violent incels, there was just a really nice moment where we could all agree that these dudes were goofy and awful and fun to rag on. Swag is for boys; class is for gentlesirs, m’lady. —R.B.

37. This Is the Future Liberals Want

This is the future that liberals want.

A Twitter account associated with 4chan’s vile /pol/ board tweeted a photo of a woman in a niqab next to a drag queen on the New York City subway, implying something nefarious (more nefarious than the drag queen’s manspreading). Immediately, it became a joke to tweet photos of two surprising people or things together. A cat riding a dog, a headline about gay penguins stealing straight penguins’ eggs, Rachel Maddow meeting Megan Rapinoe. It’s an excuse to post funny photos (always a good thing), and sort of the perfect encapsulation of the culture wars of the Trump era. —K.N.

36. Ted Cruz, the Zodiac Killer

During his run for president in 2015 and 2016, a widely circulated, joking conspiracy theory accused Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of being the Zodiac Killer, the unidentified serial killer who murdered at least seven people in California between the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Cruz was born in 1970 — after the first killings — so he is probably not the Zodiac Killer, in my expert journalistic opinion. But for many people he just...seems like kind of a weird dude, right? He pretty much made the perfect candidate for a bonkers conspiracy theory about a decades-old serial killer.

It seems like Cruz got a kick out of it eventually, though. He later acknowledged the meme, tweeting an image of the Zodiac Killer’s cypher on two separate occasions. —J.R.

35. Confused Math Lady

TV Globo

If there was one dominant theme in the 2010s, it was “I have no idea what’s going on right now.” This was expressed in a bunch of different ways, from the fact that teens and the internet curled up with increasingly obscure memes and terms meant to confuse the Olds (the boomers don’t know what “sksksksk” is) to the rise of explainer journalism like Vox or email newsletters/catch-you-up-quick news like the Skimm. We are all confused. We have no idea what’s going on. If you take the time to catch up on one story, you’ll miss what’s happening elsewhere.

Hence, Confused Math Lady, a meme featuring an actor in a Brazilan soap opera looking confused, spread on Brazilian internet. By 2016, the GIF of the confused woman became a four-panel comic with various math symbols over it, suggesting she’s trying to solve some complex calculus problem. Confused Math Lady is us, trying to understand it all. —K.N.

34. “Old Town Road”

Old Town Road.... the remix out now! 🤠 @lilnasx

Country music fandom went mainstream in the 2010s, and with it came the rise of the “yeehaw agenda” at the end of the decade. The term described a reclamation of country aesthetics among black Americans, who have long been erased from extremely white cultural depictions of the Wild West (despite the fact that 1 in 4 cowboys were black).

The concept exploded in popularity at the end of 2018 when rapper Lil Nas X released his breakout hit “Old Town Road,” a country rap song that became one of the biggest singles of the year — only getting bigger after being disqualified from the Billboard Hot Country chart over claims that it did “not embrace enough elements of today’s country music.” In response, the artist released a remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, practically daring critics to say it wasn’t country enough.

The song was a viral hit, and videos featuring it — particularly one of Lil Nas X surprising a bunch of elementary school superfans, and countless transformation TikToks — only boosted it more. The song broke records as the longest-running No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, and Lil Nas X became the first openly gay black artist to win at the Country Music Awards. —J.R.

33. American Chopper Yelling

Paul Teutul Sr. and his son, Paulie, were the stars of American Chopper, a 2000s reality show about their custom motorcycle shop. Not infrequently, they argued. The show was popular at the time, but not particularly cool or internet-y during its run. So it was slightly surprising when in 2018, stills of a scene of an argument between father and son became a meme. The more esoteric the argument — the role of media communication in science, Lord of the Rings plot holes, linguistics — the better. Part of the joy of the meme was seeing macho men argue about anime, but also acknowledging that a lot of our online lives is over-the-top screaming arguments about trivial things. —K.N.

32. Brands Acting Like People

At the end of the day, consumers are people. And people crave authenticity. It's what they look for in their relationships, their entertainment, and, yes, their brands. Which is why the orange juice account pretends to have depression now, and everyone likes it, and it's good.

Largely inspired by the Denny’s Tumblr in 2013, brands’ tweets over the decade have steadily grown to become surreal, humanoid, and Extremely Online. As the companies tried to figure out how to navigate their role in online spaces, there were missteps (who could forget the SpaghettiOs tweet about Pearl Harbor, or the time DiGiorno used a hashtag about domestic violence to make a pizza joke?). Eventually, many came into their own with genuinely fun and bonkers tweets, with MoonPie, Steak-umm, and Wendy’s being standouts. But in early 2019, things kind of jumped the shark when SunnyD just really went for it with a full-on depression tweet.

“I can’t do this anymore,” SunnyD tweeted in February. Immediately, all the other memey brand accounts got in on it, basically staging an intervention for the orange drink brand in crisis. “Hey sunny can I please offer you a hug we are gonna get through this together my friend,” Pop-Tarts tweeted. “Buddy come hangout,” tweeted Corn Nuts. It was pretty bleak, and many saw it as making light of mental illness and suicide. Most recently, brands started, uh, acting horny, in a nightmare Twitter thread started by Netflix. Who knows what other horros we’ll see in 2020? Brands! —J.R.

31. Arthur’s Fist

when you wake up and see you missed the "you up?" text

The children’s show Arthur turned 20 in 2016, and with it came a ton of Arthur memes. But none had nearly as much staying power as a still image of Arthur’s clenched fist. Just a flat cartoon image of an aardvark’s curled-up hand, it somehow embodied such passion, such fury, that the meme became instantly relatable. —J.R.

30. Florida Man

Florid Man Charged With Assault With a Deadly Weapon After Throwing Alligator Through Wendy’s Drive-Thru Window

There’s always been odd crime news out of Florida, and things seemed to hit a zenith with a 2012 incident where a man, seemingly on bath salts, attacked and disfigured another man. In 2013, the @_FloridaMan Twitter account started aggregating the funniest headlines of bumbling or outrageous crimes, such as “Florida Man Charged With Assault With a Deadly Weapon After Throwing Alligator Through Wendy’s Drive-Thru Window” or “Florida Man Suspected of Using Private Plane to Draw Giant Radar Penis.” But eventually the anonymous person behind the account started to have a change of heart, and realized that publicizing misdemeanor crimes could be seriously damaging to the private citizens involved. “How much do I want to be a party to essentially making fun of people on the worst day of their lives, even if they have done something wrong?” Freddie Campion told the Washington Post in an interview in 2018. He has now retired the account. —K.N.

29. What Are Those?

A meme that mocks someone’s shoes might seem to be more mean-spirited than other memes of the decade. It’s a catchphrase to laugh at someone for wearing ugly footwear, after all. But the most effective examples of the meme, including the Instagram video (and then Vine) that started it all, are always about punching up — taking a small shot at someone more powerful, like a teacher, a celebrity, or even Jesus.

But like “on fleek” and other viral catchphrases and memes, the “what are those” meme spread without any control from its creator, Brandon Moore. In a 2018 interview with HuffPost, Moore said that he “felt sick” when he heard his catchphrase in the movie Black Panther, because it was a reminder of how he had missed a chance to copyright or watermark his video and had seen his creative work monetized by others without him benefitting at all. Six months after the interview, Moore died in his sleep at age 31. —K.N.

28. Kanye West

Twitter: @kanyewest (deleted)

Is Kanye West a meme? Is he a collection of memes? Is he the original material that gets remixed into memes? Is he all of these things? Perhaps. Kanye’s “Imma Let You Finish" moment happened in September 2009, but was still humming along by the time the decade started (the internet was slower then). For a while, his Twitter account was an endless source of internet content: “I hate when I'm on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle.” Damn. Huge mood. And then, of course, like many memes, he went full MAGA after the election of Donald Trump. For much of the decade, it seemed like all of culture either flowed from or through West. Based on the reviews for his newest album, Jesus Is King, and the general lack of buzz around his Sunday Service project, that might be something we’re leaving in 2010s. Although, he did just bless us with Silver Kanye, so who knows really. —R.B.

27. Dat Boi

In the same way that a bunch of the X-Men are all blue for some reason, the internet really likes green frogs. Sadly for Dat Boi, he hasn’t had the same staying power as Pepe or Kermit. The version of Dat Boi that we all know was first posted in April 2016. In many ways, he’s the last meme specifically from Tumblr — a nice, wholesome shitpost featuring a picture stolen from an AP physics textbook that doesn’t really make any sense but is just kind of funny. Dat Boi, in my opinion, is the platonic ideal of a meme: It’s funny, it works as a cute little wink for superusers, it doesn’t make a lot sense, and it disappears before getting turned into some dumb brand tweet. —R.B.

26. Harambe

Would Donald Trump have killed the gorilla?

On May 28, 2016, a gorilla who went by Harambe was fatally shot at the Cincinnati Zoo after attacking a 3-year-old boy who had climbed into the enclosure.

The incident absolutely dominated the news cycle, and it quickly spawned a ton of memes. People made videos of Harambe’s banger of a funeral, paid homage in their yearbook photos, and even painted street art in his memory. All across the land, dicks were out for Harambe.

It’s more than a little dark for a dead gorilla and an injured toddler to become meme fodder, but that’s exactly what happened. Harambe memes should not be funny, which means they totally, always will be. —J.R.

25. Damn Daniel

View this video on YouTube

High schooler Josh Holz loved taunting his friend Daniel Lara by following him around, filming him, and commenting on his sneakers. When he compiled the videos and tweeted it, the world loved hearing a creepy voice saying “Damn, Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans.” The teens boys went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and received a lifetime supply of Vans. In 2019, both Daniel and Josh are in college. Josh is studying fashion and works for, you guessed it, Vans. —K.N.

24. Tiffany Pollard


A still of Tiffany Pollard, best known as New York from the VH1 dating show Flavor of Love, lying on a bed in her clothes, hands folded in her lap, sunglasses on, seeming to stew in quiet anger, became a meme in 2015 and continued for the rest of the decade. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Pollard described what she was actually feeling in that moment: “I just remember being so alone, so pissed off; I wanted to get away from those girls … I was really having a rough time in that moment and I think me sitting there was actually me just trying to center myself, centering myself through this bad energy I was dealing with.”

Pollard’s memeability goes beyond that one image of her lying on the bed. Her over-the-top personality is what made her a standout reality star in the ’00s, and that same quality made her perfect for reaction GIFs in the ’10s. —K.N.

23. Tide Pods

The beginning of 2018 was all about forbidden laundry gummies. Eating Tide Pods started out as just a meme, but soon enough, some teens were actually eating them for the “Tide Pod challenge.” It got so bad that Tide and the US government had to issue warnings about it.

This meme getting as big as it did made a sort of sense in early 2018 — the ice caps were melting, Nazis were back, and everyone was tweeting jokes about wanting to die. Sure, biting into a detergent ravioli might not be the smartest idea, but who knows what could happen unless you try? –J.R.

22. Blinking White Guy

Drew Scalon /

One of the biggest reaction memes of the decade, the “blinking white guy” perfectly summed up when you truly just could not believe what you were seeing. The man is Drew Scanlon, and the specific blink came from a gaming video he appeared in in 2013, though it wouldn’t become a meme until early 2017. It’s a simple reaction, but it seemed to say it all at a time when the world was a confusing mess and people were feeling pretty dang incredulous a lot of the time.

"As long as they’re not mean, I don’t have a problem with the tweets," Scanlon told BuzzFeed News in 2017. "I think we need more positivity on the internet these days." —J.R.

21. Minions

Universal Pictures

Ah, yes, the official mascots of every boomer’s divorce announcement Facebook post. These little bastards took over the internet with a speed that was honestly unparalleled. Their disgusting yellow bodies flooded news feeds like a DDoS attack. I think to understand exactly how the great Minionfication of the internet happened you have to separate it out into two movements. First, there were people genuinely posting Minion memes. Then came the second wave, where people started using Minion memes to make fun of the people who posted Minion memes. I’d love to say that we’re in the clear now and we can leave these beasts in the 2010s, but Minions: The Rise of Gru is coming out on July 3, 2020, so get ready, everyone. —R.B.

20. Milkshake Duck

The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist

Coined by @pixelatedboat, a milkshake duck is some person or entity that enjoys a viral moment and then is swiftly exposed as problematic. The ultimate example was Ken Bone, a man in a distinctive red sweater and mustache who asked a question during a presidential town hall debate in 2016 — who after becoming the meme of the night, was discovered to have a spicy sexual Reddit user history. Cancel culture may not be real, but milkshake ducking certainly is. —K.N.

19. Gavin

Twitter: @gavinthomas

There’s a good chance you know Gavin’s face even if you don’t know Gavin’s name. It’s sort of incredible to include Gavin Thomas on this list because he was literally born in 2010 at the start of the decade. He first went viral when his uncle Nick Mastodon started putting him in Vines. Gavin really solidified himself as a meme when he turned 5 years old. Suddenly, he was everywhere. He had this extremely relatable confused grimace that really seemed to capture the zeitgeist in 2015 and 2016 (not totally sure what was going on at the time that would explain why). He’s 9 years old now and has a million followers on Instagram. For all the cautionary tales out there about what life after being a meme is like, so far it seems like Gavin’s doing all right. His family seems to be looking after him and, more bizarrely, it also feels like the internet at large is looking after him. He grew up on social media, and it does feel like we’re all invested in making sure he ends up OK. —R.B.

18. Shrek

Dreamworks /

Even though the first Shrek came out in 2001, it took a few years for the internet to really embrace the green Scottish ogre. Ever since, it feels like he’s buzzed just below the surface of mainstream internet culture — always there, always talking about onions. My theory as to why he’s stayed so popular? Aside from maybe a postmodern riff on the extreme overcommercialization of children’s entertainment (see Minions), I think there’s actually something really relatable about a big, fat ogre who doesn’t want to leave his swamp. It’s the perfect metaphor for being online. —R.B.

17. “Do It for the Vine"

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Vine shut down on my birthday, and because of that, I’ve always felt a weirdly intimate connection to Vine. A good friend once told me he thought of a Vine as one sentence in the visual grammar of video. Everything you need to convey one idea in a video you could do in a six-second Vine. It was a revolution and you could argue it has had a more profound legacy on how we create and share videos than bigger platforms like YouTube or Netflix. For a long time, I, like many people, believed that Vine was shut down too soon. Now, I think it actually shut down exactly when it should. Social networks probably shouldn’t last! It’s weird that we still use Twitter.

The phrase “do it for the Vine" comes from a song created by YouTuber Kaye Trill and it immediately became the anthem of a summer full of people doing extremely outrageous things. Many of the original great “do it for the Vine" posts have been deleted, sadly. But, luckily, we’ll always have the YouTube compilations. —R.B.

16. Real Housewives

Bravo / Instagram: @smudge_lord

Memes are often tied to some technological advance, such as the six-second looping video or the quote-tweet format. At the start of the decade, animated GIFs were actually hard to make. You needed Photoshop, which is expensive and hard to use. Sourcing high-quality video to turn into a GIF was also harder. In a pre-Giphy world, truly good animated GIFs were prized and hoarded, saved in folders on a desktop to use in reactions. On Tumblr, the main source of GIFs, there was a vast gulf between the number of users actually making GIFs and the amount of people reposting them. One of the early and prolific makers of high-quality reaction GIFs was the, made by a man named T. Kyle McMahon (who now works for Bravo), who pumped out GIF after GIF from the Bravo universe, particularly the Real Housewives series. Because of the format of the show, where the women were literally asked to react directly to the camera, the Housewives were perfect for emotional reaction GIFs.

The enduring power of the Real Housewives through the decades was proven in 2019 by the popularity of an image of an early season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, where one Housewife is yelling while another holds her back, juxtaposed with a white cat named Smudge scowling at a dinner table. —K.N.

15. The Joker

For those who didn’t catch the reference

The Joker obviously existed long before social media, but the character's glee-filled take on chaotic nihilism has, for better or worse, become inseparable from how we imagine a very specific kind of kind internet user: angry, insular, often violent, male.

Over the last decade, a symbiotic relationship has evolved between new Hollywood iterations of the Joker and the internet's digital underbelly. Starting in 2008, Heath Ledger’s anarchist, anti-capitalist Joker became the unofficial mascot of 4chan’s Anonymous hacktivist movement. The idea of a nameless grungy psychopath burning piles of dirty money, throwing a city into chaos to satisfy his twisted rage, was a perfect avatar for a generation of Occupy-adjacent millennials graduating into a global economic recession and harnessing technology to claw back control of their own lives. Jared Leto’s 2016 take on the Joker, even though none of them would ever admit it, mirrored the rise of Gamergate somewhat perfectly, giving the world a sniveling misogynist covered in face tattoos, singularly focused on controlling the anatomy of Suicide Squad’s standout woman character Harley Quinn. All the clown prince was missing was a vape to better embody late millennial toxic masculinity. So it’s fitting, then, that we close out the decade with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, a chain-smoking, self-described mentally ill loner who hijacks mainstream media via an act of extreme violence and sets off a reactionary protest movement.

The Joker isn’t always a serious meme, like with the most recent Joker film giving us the scene of Phoenix dancing down a flight of stairs in Harlem. Instead, it’s something closer to SpongeBob, a visual and emotional language we use to express a part of ourselves online. As for whether the Joker will continue to evolve alongside social media, well, there are rumors already circulating of another Phoenix-led Joker film, so it’s likely he’s not going away anytime soon. —R.B.

14. Why You Lyin’

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The beauty of Nicholas Fraser’s Vine in his backyard singing “Why you always lyin’” over the music of “Too Close” by Next is that it makes no sense for why it exists. Why is his shirt open? Why is there a toilet in the yard? Who is lying and why is he so seemingly happy about accusing someone of lying? And yet, it turns out 2015 was the right moment for this meme to exist and serve as the perfect totem for the impending post-truth internet. Now, replying with a screenshot of Fraser’s smiling face is internet shorthand for “this is a lie.” —K.N.

13. Being Horny

.@tedcruz my young daughters and sons follow you for good wholesome content can you please explain this???

If you think about it, being horny is like when content trends before it becomes a meme (sex is the meme). And whether it’s Ted Cruz faving a porn tweet on 9/11 or Kurt Eichenwald screenshotting Chrome tabs full of hentai, if someone is online long enough, they will be caught being horny and it will be embarrassing. The only silver lining is that it can happen to any of us. My hope for the next decade is that we all just accept that most of the time people are online, they’re also probably looking at pornography or sexting with each other. That’s what this whole thing was made for! Horny users of the web, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! —R.B.

12. Distracted Boyfriend

Stock photo memes had a moment in 2017, but none became as big or enduring as the one that became known as “Distracted Boyfriend.” The photo depicted a man checking out a woman while his own girlfriend glared at him with disgust. It quickly became a meme, though photographer Antonio Guillem told the Guardian at the time he “didn’t even know what a meme [was] until recently.” The photo has now been around a few years, but it’s still a classic, popping up as a meme pretty often and perfectly embodying so many emotions: deception, distraction, heartbreak, loss, and hope. —J.R.

11. Doge

The only meme of the decade to inspire an actually used form of blockchain currency, Doge was a breath of fresh air in 2013 when people were starting to feel burned out about what the first iteration of what “memes” were. “Memes” now means something different — funny tweets screenshotted and posted to Instagram, or absurd teen humor. But in a darker, earlier time, “memes” were something like rage comics or the Forever Alone Guy. They took themselves seriously in a sense, and were the domain of redditors or angry 4chan guys, or something a brand used in a Super Bowl ad to seem relevant. Then, a friendly Shiba Inu appeared with funny language and words around him, just being amused and delighted by the world. This wasn’t FFFFUUUUUUU, it was such wow. Doge was here to make us happy. Of course by now, the phrase “such wow” is cringey and outdated, but it had a good long run. —K.N.

10. Kermit

Lipton Tea

The lovable green amphibian became one of the most memeable nonhuman characters of the decade, next to perhaps only SpongeBob and Shrek. Two massive memes, Kermit sipping tea and Evil Kermit, earned the Muppet his place in meme Valhalla, and made a bunch of smaller memes (Sad Kermit puppet, Kermit in the car) take off. There’s something deeply funny about children’s characters behaving like naughty adults, by the idea of Kermit having shady opinions about others while he sips his tea or encouraging you to do something dangerous or sexual or drug-related. Part of the joy of Kermit memes is that everyone knows Kermit; he’s not obscure or niche. And yet someone, the official Twitter account for Good Morning America to be precise, called the Kermit-sipping-tea meme “tea lizard.” —K.N.

9. Reaction GIFs

NBC / Via

It’s hard to remember a time when reaction GIFs weren’t ubiquitous, but they really rose to prominence in 2012 with the launch of the Tumblr blog #whatshouldwecallme. The blog posted GIFs paired with ~relatable~ captions — for example, the GIF of Homer Simpson disappearing into the bushes, captioned, “When I’m in an argument with someone and realize I’m completely wrong.” This blog was a huge deal at the time, inspiring countless spinoffs, particularly at colleges. Though it was a pretty fresh meme format at the time, #whatshouldwecallme posts just look a lot like the way we communicate online today. —J.R.

8. Guy Fieri

#28 @buzzfeedfood @katienotopoulos @BuzzFeed

Fun fact: Guy Fieri is so ubiquitous and embedded in the language of American social media that we basically got to the very end of making this list and realized he didn’t have his own entry, even though he’s referenced throughout. Becoming a meme these days is pretty easy: You do something or appear in a piece of media, people latch onto it because of some innate and relatable reason, and voilà, you’re viral. But to stay a meme is a much harder feat. Usually it involves a bizarre and inexplicable alchemy of having chaotic high/low culture energy and a total lack of self-awareness. Memes can’t know they’re memes. Guy Fieri is embodiment of this. He looks like a failed ‘90s energy drink marketing campaign, he drives around in convertibles eating absolute garbage (he literally has a recipe for nachos made in a trash can) and seemingly cannot fathom that his entire persona is ridiculous. Even when he does lean into his memeness, he still doesn’t really seem to get it, like with his recent Baby Yoda photoshop. Whether Gen Z continues to latch on to the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives host is unclear. Only time will tell whether or not Flavortown can survive the ages. —R.B.

7. The Dress

Cecilia Bleasdale

“Black and blue or white and gold?” was the question that seemingly everyone on earth was asking on one day in early 2015. A woman in Scotland showed her friends a photo her mother took of a dress she planned to wear to a wedding, and a friend of the woman posted it to Tumblr, asking for help — “what colors are this dress?” She submitted it as a question to BuzzFeed’s Tumblr, and former BuzzFeed employee Cates Holderness reposted it to our account. From there, it blew up as a fun visual gag that was infuriating and odd.

The Dress was posted to BuzzFeed the same day two llamas escaped in Arizona, and a live TV police chase of the two animals enthralled the internet as adorable mayhem broke out. In retrospect, that two such happy, carefree, unproblematic things took over the internet on the same day seems like wild serendipity. It also feels like the last day the internet felt purely joyful, before the onslaught of the 2016 election took place and things took a darker turn.

The dress is, indeed, black and blue, even though over two thirds of the millions of BuzzFeed readers who voted said they thought it was white and gold. In 2018, a similar sensory illusion, this time auditory, went viral over whether a voice was saying “yanny” or “laurel.” But somehow, the special feeling just wasn’t there again; it felt like trying to recreate some old magic that was lost, like kids who have graduated hanging back at high school. —K.N.

6. "This Is Fine" Dog

K.C. Green / Via

The dog engulfed in flames, denying that anything is wrong, is from the 2013 webcomic Gunshow by K.C. Green. In the full comic, the dog’s face eventually melts, while he continues to drink his coffee and insist he’s OK, but the version that became a symbol of the decade is just the first two panels where he says “this is fine.”

The meme has been used a lot to describe various political situations: The official @GOP Twitter used it once, and a senator even described the comic during a Senate Intelligence Committee while describing how Russian election interference was not fine. But the staying power of the dog is about how we all grin and bear it through everything that’s happened over this decade that feels like the house is on fire — the climate crisis, elections, the disappointing last season of Game of Thrones. There is nothing that captures the 2010s more than “this is fine” dog. —K.N.

5. Smash Mouth's "All Star"

Like Shrek, Smash Mouth’s “All Star" is another one of those millennial nostalgia points that has evolved into something bigger than itself thanks to the internet. It’s lasted for several reasons: One, it’s just a damn good song; two, the lead singer of Smash Mouth looks like Guy Fieri; three, it was on the Shrek soundtrack; four, it’s a cheery song about how shit everything is — which is exactly how it feels to be online. —R.B.

4. On Fleek

What makes “on fleek” a crucial meme for understanding the 2010s is not simply why the meme was catchy, but what happened to the meme after it left the hands of its creator and what that says about the commercialization and monetization of memes — i.e., who gets paid and who gets credit. Kayla Newman, who goes by Peaches Monroee online, was a teen when she posted a Vine musing that her eyebrows were “on fleek” because she thought she looked good. The Vine caught on because it’s simple and fun and enjoyable. Soon, brands were using the phrase on their social media. IHOP tweeted “pancakes on fleek.” Denny’s tweeted “Hashbrowns on fleek.” JetBlue and Taco Bell also used it, and the phrase all of a sudden seemed inescapable in marketing. Corporations were using Newman’s invention of a phrase without giving her any credit or compensation.

In the Fader, Doreen St. Félix wrote how “on fleek” is an example of an endless trend of black teenagers creating the memes, lingo, and jokes that make up internet culture, and how those black teens are often uncredited and don’t profit when brands use their creative works. This is in contradiction to a handful of white teens who also went viral around the same time: The “Damn, Daniel” boys got free Vans and appearances on talk shows; the Walmart yodeling boy got a record deal, as did Danielle Bregoli, the “cash me ousside” girl.

In 2017, Newman started a GoFundMe campaign to launch a beauty line, but it only raised around $17,000 of the $100,000 she was hoping for. In a 2017 interview with Teen Vogue, Newman said if she had known the phrase would catch on like it did, she would’ve been more aggressive about it, adding that she was trying to trademark the phrase. —K.N.

3. Pepe the Frog

Matt Furie

None of us wanted to write about Pepe. What’s even left to be said about him that hasn’t been said already? He started as a chill frog in a 2008 comic by artist Matt Furie. He then became a consistent, but largely forgettable fixture of 4chan in the early part of the decade. The first time I saw him was in a meme that read, "We are the middle children of history. Born too late to explore Earth, born too early to explore space." I thought it was pretty funny. Sometimes he’d be in memes about blasting the toilet bowl with piss to clean it. He’s something different now — a literal hate symbol that is still being used by far-right extremists and white nationalists.

In the course of his transition from slacker goof to hate symbol, he’s taught us a lot about symbols — not just how the internet works — but he’s also maybe revealed something deeper about how symbols work. Furie has famously tried to litigate Pepe away from fascists, but it hasn't really worked. Pepe’s effectively theirs now. It’s a grim, but important reminder that all culture can be hacked and warped and poisoned. All speech, online and off, is political. And all symbols, even chill frogs, require protection and upkeep. Feels bad, man. —R.B.

2. Crying Jordan

Stephan Savoia / AP

Michael Jordan wept during his 2009 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but it wasn’t until at least 2012 that the still of his face, red-eyed with tears streaming down both cheeks, became a meme. It started with sports fans but soon spread to become an enduring and universal image for faux sadness. It’s a bit of an anomaly for a celebrity photo meme; Michael Jordan isn’t particularly memey otherwise, and although he was one of the biggest celebrities in the world in the ’90s, he hasn’t been in the spotlight this decade. Perhaps his role in the movie Space Jam has lent him some level of internet irony that makes the meme so satisfying. Jordan has said through a spokesperson that he doesn’t mind the popularity of the meme, so long as it’s not used for commercial purposes. However, his former teammate and friend Charles Oakley did tell TMZ that Jordan actually isn’t amused. That feeling Jordan may have — a moment of vulnerable emotion being plastered all over the internet for laughs — of course would be best depicted by, well, the Crying Jordan meme. —K.N.

1. SpongeBob

Nickelodeon /

Did anything result in as many memes in the 2010s as SpongeBob? The show, which started in 1999 and is still going 20 years later, is so deeply entrenched in pop culture it would be hard to count how many memes have come out of it. But let’s try: There’s been caveman SpongeBob, mocking SpongeBob, tired naked SpongeBob, “ight Imma head out” SpongeBob, traveling SpongeBob, Krusty Krabs vs. Chum Bucket, evil Patrick, blurry Mr. Krabs, sleeping Squidward, and so many more.

The meme's staying power can be attributed to a few things. It was an enormously popular show with a nearly universal sense of nostalgia for millennials and Gen Z’ers, who are the most prolific of meme creators. The simple art and animation style also beget some of the most instantly understandable reaction memes. May SpongeBob memes continue to prosper until [SpongeBob narrator voice] one eternity later. —J.R.


T. Kyle MacMahon's name was misstated in an earlier version of this post.

Drake starred in Degrassi: The Next Generation. An earlier version of this post misstated which Degrassi series he was on.

Sen. Richard Burr referenced the "this is fine" meme during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian election interference. A previous version of this post misstated where he made the comment.