Over a year of investing the bulk of our time online, we’ve noticed a lot. We’ve alternated between using Twitter as a virtual center of town, recreating our adolescent archives on Tumblr, creating new personalities on TikTok, and leaving existing ones on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, the diversity of this spectrum is shown in last year’s “best” memes.
From President Joe Biden’s reelection to the unexpected emergence of sea shanties after they gained a devoted fan base on TikTok, the first month of 2021 was a flurry of celebrity gossip and pop culture blasts. The meme loop has proceeded to illustrate our penchant for producing a whirlwind of memes in reaction to big news and clinging to items that makes people feel happy. We have collected the data and the list with the help of Meme Scout, and you can explore more memes there.
Bernie Sanders Sitting
The very first major meme of 2021 was a picture of Bernie Sanders seated at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Sanders’ portrait, which showed him with his legs and wrists twisted, hands adorned with mittens, and simply sitting in a grey suit, was all over the internet for at once a week. People were using the image of Sanders to convey those moods (“out there on the town enjoying the experience of a lifetime with a lot of mates”), as well as photoshopping him into every setting possible, prompting the manufacturer of his mittens to explain that they were out of stock.
Sea Shanty TikTok
Sea shanties were the coolest track on TikTok for a brief period when everybody was reeling through months of lockdown. The success of these old boat songs started when Nathan Evans, a 26-year-old Scottish mail carrier and singer, shared a video of himself performing “The Wellerman,” a 19th-century whaling song from New Zealand. There were remixed versions, Kermit the frog editions, and thought pieces soon after. Shanty society was inevitable and irresistible.
On the launch of several COVID-19 vaccinations a year after a worldwide pandemic, you’d imagine there would have been near-universal excitement. Naturally, given our culture’s proclivity for conspiracy theories, many people are wondering how “safe” the vaccinations are, particularly given how easily they can access them. “However, what’s in them?” they enquire. You probably don’t have to think about it, as per this meme.
The ghost challenges
The Ghost Challenge on TikTok has been one of the reasons why some people were able to enjoy themselves outdoors this fall, which was also a perfect way for buddies who didn’t live together just to socially separate themselves. The now-viral track “Oklahoma” by Jack Stauber was really the ideal background music for young dogs and people wrapped up in covers to take hip, vintage-filtered Halloween photo sessions as ghosts.
A meme is a series of words, pictures, videos, or sounds that becomes bigger, more nuanced, and more difficult to pin down because more people download and share it. In certain ways, the “best” memes are those that can act as a foundation for subsequent memes; they transform into new memes and last the centuries.