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The end of the decade is rapidly approaching, and now is the time for reflection. 

How were the last 10 years? What made us laugh? What went viral on the internet?

Now clearly I couldn’t mention every single meme that came up over the past decade, but I picked a choice few that really spoke to me. A few that HURTLED me back in time when I was looking up old memes and gave me a visceral reaction. A few that really spoke to some cultural significance; the ones that were emblematic of their time.   


2010 brought us the ever-iconic, Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wife news clip and consequential song. 2010 was also the year of Mr. Trololo, the Double Rainbow video, the Forever Alone Rage Comics and of course, the Deal With It sunglasses. The main platform on which we’re creating and sharing memes shifts throughout the years, and in 2010 I would say that we were still firmly rooted in Facebook brand memes. 


Do you remember those hours-long videos of Nyan Cat? Do you remember feeling like you were never going to stop hearing that song? Like Nyan Cat was just going to be singing in your ear forever? Because that’s still haunting me. 2011 was also the year of Friday by Rebecca Black! 2011 also gave us Hipster everything, Siri and planking. 2011 was also when we really saw the rise of the top/bottom block text format, providing gems like First World Problems, Fry memes and Conspiracy Keanu.


Remember when we all thought the world was going to end in 2012? Good thing that it didn’t, and instead it just brought some great memes! 2012 saw the rise of icons like Bad Luck Brian,  ERMAHGERD Goosebumps, and the overly attached girlfriend. Grumpy Cat (rip buddy :( ) completely ruled 2012. McKayla Maroney was also a huge part of meme culture in 2012, but more importantly, fast forward a few years and she was one of the women who spoke out against her sexual abuser and coach, Larry Nassar, in 2018. 


This is when we start seeing the shift away from that block text and a transition into a more modern meme format. Tumblr humor like doge (very wow, much memories, such cringe) and moon moon were huge. 2013 was also the debut of Bangerz era twerking Miley. Now, make sure you’re sitting down for these two, 2013 was also the year of the Harlem Shake, and What Does the Fox Say. 


2014 brought us Ellen’s famous Oscar selfie, Pharrell’s hat, and Alex from Target. Kim K broke the internet with that picture, and everybody was doing the ice bucket challenge for ALS. 2014 also introduced memes like That Could Be Us But You Playin, and tea Kermit with But That’s None of My Business


Strap in. In 2015 we got Hotline Bling and Drake’s dance, Netflix and Chill, Left Shark. We had Miley vs Ninki Minjaj (what’s good) and Drake vs Meek Mill; we had Why You Always Lyin. And most importantly we had the most polarizing event of the decade- the white and gold dress that divided people more than absolutely anything else.


In 2016 we start to see the rise of the Twitter memes: Confused Mr. Krabs, the Arthur Fist and angry Michael Phelps. In 2016 we were all showing off our white vans (damn), doing the Mannequin Challenge, and playing Pokemon Go. We lost Harambe, and we found out that Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer. There was also an election. Big year for memes! 


The Twitter meme skyrocketed in 2017; we saw Salt Bae, Roll Safe, the Blinking Man, yelling Meryl Streep, that weird Snapchat Hot Dog and sPoNgeBoB. We were also introduced to the still popular distracted boyfriend meme, and I also graduated high school, which is a huge meme and something I still haven’t accepted even though I am presently in my 3rd year of college. 


Buckle up. Gen Z, a generation defined by their memes, are all functioning humans and generating memes faster than we can count. 2018 brought kids (not really) eating Tide Pods, the off-ramps meme, FBI Agents, sinister Patrick and “Change My Mind.” We saw the multipanel meme skyrocket- Gru’s plan, the American Chopper argument and Who Killed Hannibal? The cultural moment of thank u, next happened. Surprised Pikachu and the little boy yodeling in Walmart stole our hearts. We all watched the most ambitious crossover event in history. And Fortnite? Happened? Is still happening? 


Welcome back to 2019! This year we had an Area 51 raid and Nancy Pelosi clapping. VSCO girls ruled the summer and saved the turtles, and people decided that they actually like Tik Tok? Some new and exciting meme templates were the woman yelling at a cat, the Let Me In meme and gonna tell my kids this was (blank). We were also provided some great reaction videos, courtesy of Paul Rudd on Hot Ones, Jasmine Masters and Keke Palmer not recognizing Dick Cheney. And of course, a late addition but indisputed Meme Queen of 2019: Baby Yoda.

It’s been quite a decade! Happy Memeing!!   

Katie Semack

Wisconsin '21

Katie grew up in New York City and is a senior at University of Wisconsin- Madison studying Political Science and Communications. Her favorite pastimes include doing yoga, watching Golden Girls with her puppy, Gatsby, and empowering other women. 
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