The decade in memes

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Picture this.

It’s 2010. TikTok is simply a song by Ke$ha, you’re playing Flappy Bird on an iPhone 3gs, and One Direction have only just formed.

Oh, and there aren’t hundreds of new memes circulating the internet everyday.

Fast-forward a decade and it’s impossible to count the number of internet inside-jokes being shared daily.

As the decade comes to a close, we’ve done our best to round up some of the most iconic memes the internet has brought us over the past 10 years.

2010: YouTube

There’s no denying that 2010 was a strange year. There weren’t *really* memes as we know them today – but there were viral internet sensations.

One of those was a lady named Elonia – whose YouTube video singing “sitting on the toilet”, while she’s sitting on the toilet – currently has more than 9m views.

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“And flush” – what a finale.

The video sets a pretty standard precedent for early 2010 memes. They were simple, poorly-produced and lacked intellectual depth.

But, there’s no denying Elonia’s song has been buried somewhere in our minds for 10 years, so fair play.

2011: Classic meme format

In 2011 pictures with basic text captions on them emerged.

One of the early examples was a Futurama screenshot, with memes that followed the template: “not sure if ___, or just ___”.

Looking back now, it’s surprising that we ever found these funny.

2012: Overly attached girlfriend

There was no escaping the simple picture and block text format in 2012, where the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme was born.

It came from a YouTube video by Laina Morris, in which she sings Boyfriend by Justin Bieber but changes the lyrics to fit the character of a crazy, possessive girlfriend.

Her character must have been pretty strong – it got millions of views and her creepy smile was meme-fied.

Up until a few months ago, Laina Morris was still regularly doing videos in the Overly Attached Girlfriend character.

2013: Chloe and Gavin

When we were putting together this list, 2013 stood out for its contribution to memes. It was when two children, Gavin and Chloe, were introduced to the meme-sphere – and they’ve stood the test of time.

Chloe’s disturbed expression proved to be very relatable:

And Gavin’s often confused, disgruntled facial expressions saturated the internet in 2013 and – to be honest – have done ever since.

He truly is the “internet’s son”.

2014: ‘But that’s none of my business’

The meme that dominated 2014 was an image of Kermit the frog drinking iced tea – and minding his business.

See if you can figure out how it was used:

You also couldn’t scroll for long without seeing “starter packs”.

Nobody was safe from having their entire personality and style ripped to shreds by one of these picture grids.

They were simple, but fantastic banter.

Another special mention has to go to this iconic photo. The streets will never forget.

Amazingly, the veiny guy apparently went to school with the Overly Attached Girlfriend.

If nothing else, they definitely once met.

Incredible effort from both of them there.

2015: Why you always lyin’?

2015 was the height of Vine’s popularity – and it was the year that Nicholas Fraser sang along to the tune of “Too Close” by Next.

But this wasn’t any old singing video. Nicholas featured his own lyrics, about liars, and made a dance to go with it. It went viral.

It was also the year that Drake released Hotline Bling and his dance moves in the music video were as memorable as the catchy chorus.

People added their own twists to the video…

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2016: Meme sophistication

The word “meme” was being searched for a lot on Google in 2016.

Arguably, by then, the days of stock images with bold white text were pretty much gone – memes had become much more nuanced.

One that was particularly popular was “Arthur’s clenched fist”.

Like most memes, it got entirely out of hand and even ended up being made into embroidery.

2016 was also the year that “Damn Daniel” was born.

It was a great example of how to support your friends – and also make them Twitter famous.

Daniel, his friend, and his white Vans were invited on to The Ellen DeGeneres show, and were even mentioned in a Jay-Z lyric.

2017: Blinking guy & Distracted boyfriend

2017 was as busy as ever, with far too many memes to mention them all. But a special shoutout goes to Blinking Man.

You know it well – the simple gif of a man doing a surprised, double-take blink.

Stock image memes made a resurgence in 2017, with Distracted Boyfriend impossible to escape.

It tackled ancient history…

… primary school memories….

and grammar dilemmas…

It was also the year Radio 1 Newsbeat (that’s us) did a documentary all about the joy of memes.

2018: Kids running memes again

One of last year’s biggest stars was Mason Ramsey. Or – as you might know him – the kid who yodelled in a Walmart store.

The video of Mason went viral.

Mason definitely made the most of his sudden fame. He released a follow-up single, appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, performed at Coachella festival and even featured on Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road remix.

But it wasn’t just Mason putting kids on the map in 2018.

At some point during all of this ASMR – people trying to trigger a tingly feeling with whispery noises – happened. YouTuber LifewithMaK managed to crossover into memes.

2019: Sorry to this man

You’ve made it to 2019 – congrats. Or, if you’re a Facebook user, you might still be in 2018. Nowadays memes often start on Reddit before making their way to Twitter, then Instagram, WhatsApp and finally Facebook.

Oh, and their shelf life has massively decreased. Hundreds are churned out every day, unlike the start of the decade when they’d be recycled for months on end.

They’re often still self-deprecating and observational, but are simply better – and faster – produced than in earlier years. That’s why we think 2019 was the best year for memes.

Actress Keke Palmer gave us one of the year’s best reaction videos when she was shown a picture of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Next up: Jasmine Masters and her infamous “and I oop”.

No idea what that is? 1. Have you been living under a rock? 2. Let the video do the talking.

The moment (when drag queen Jasmine hits her genitals by accident) has been used for Titanic memes…

…to classical memes.

Obviously, we can’t recap the year without mentioning Kombucha Girl.

Brittany Tomlinson’s video has more than 40 million views on TikTok.

Something else we’ve seen a lot of in 2019 is No Context accounts.

Undoubtedly the best was boxing promoter Eddie Hearn. Here are just a few of our favourites:

They even got pretty meta, with memes being referenced within other memes.

The final special mention of 2019 goes to Nicole – one of the most simple but effective memes of the year.

It’s been the decade when memes as we know them were born, and they’ve only got more creative and plentiful.

Here’s to more great memes in the next decade.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

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