The 100 Memes That Defined The 2010s

From planking to VSCO girls.

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

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

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

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

89. Kim Kardashian Breaks the Internet

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

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

84. Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge

i screwed up. #kyliejennerchallenge #uhoh 😷

vine.co

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

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

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

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

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

#manequinchallenge SHARE‼️ RT‼️

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

69.

(nice.)

68. Bee Movie

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

64. Galaxy Brain

63. Loss.JPG

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

60. Binders Full of Women

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

57. Wholesome Memes

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

54. You Know I Had to Do It to Em

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

51. Cringe

50. Obama and Biden

49. Drake/"Hotline Bling"

48. Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life"

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“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

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

44. Cash Me Ousside

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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

42. Nickelback

41. Rebecca Black

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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"

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*

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

34. “Old Town Road”

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

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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

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 https://t.co/tEPBfzF8gf

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

27. Dat Boi

26. Harambe

Would Donald Trump have killed the gorilla? https://t.co/Im5ig7cqp0

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

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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

23. Tide Pods

22. Blinking White Guy

21. Minions

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

18. Shrek

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

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

10. Kermit

9. Reaction GIFs

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

6. "This Is Fine" Dog

5. Smash Mouth's "All Star"

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

2. Crying Jordan

1. SpongeBob

CORRECTIONS

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.