This year, like many in this cursed century, birthed memes that, for a brief moment, captured the zeitgeist, but quickly devolved into a repetitive and unfunny mad lib of meaningless content. Memes, by definition, are online jokes made again and again, but what makes a joke funny is the fact that it's fresh and unexpected. All this is to say that a meme is funny for about a tenth of a second, and then it gets played out, and continues to exist for what feels like an eternity.
In light of that truth, here are the most played out memes of the year of our lord two-thousand eighteen:
There should probably be a hard, steadfast rule that if a meme is encouraging the poisoning of one's body, it should be classified as "bad." But that's not even what I took issue with when it came to Tide Pods, the eventual internet challenge in which people—primarily teens—pretended to eat the little, colorful balls of laundry detergent in video challenges. What annoyed me the most about this inane online phenomenon was how perfect a metaphor it was for our times, as if this whole thing was designed to be the perfect literary device—that, as a poison, it had slowly seeped into our culture, until we just learned to live with it, a little more ill every day. (If you can believe it, this all began in the early days of January this year.)
First, there were the aforementioned videos. Then, poison control centers had to inform the public that, well, it wasn't a great idea to ingest soap designed for clothes. Later, the trend got picked up by legacy media publications, and the New England Patriot's Gronk appeared in a commercial—with the implication seeming to be that even he, a relatively dumb person, knows they should not be consumed. Finally, it got even worse: Restaurants started decorating and shaping their food like Tide Pods, in a hip marketing attempt.
And now, here we are: Still turning it into content.
—Alex Norcia, Staff Writer
Let's Get This Bread
Maybe I'm a curmudgeon but can someone eloquently explain where the joke is in the "let's get this bread" meme? An oft-repeated joke that mostly appeals to half-comatose internet basics, "let's get this bread," an encouraging refrain of positivity, is utterly empty. It is a comment on nothing; it embodies nothingness itself—a repeated void of humor that passes for a joke in today's cyber-reality.
—Eve Peyser, Staff Writer
This Is America
The memes from Childish Gambino’s wildly popular, hypnotic video for “This Is America,” have been missing the point for the better part of a year now. Obviously anything can be a meme, but this was an opportunity for everyone to see a bad one and move on. Of course, the king of missed points, Pewdiepie, defended them to the last—but do you really want to be on the same side of the zeitgeist as that guy?
—Beckett Mufson, Staff Writer
Change My Mind
Nothing good was going to come from conservative podcaster Steven Crowder setting up a booth outside Texas Christian University that read, “Male privilege is a myth. Change my mind.” Once liberals caught wind of it their spoofs like “I’m gay, change my mind” only kicked up more fuel for conservative folks to promote things like, “if she breathe she a thot, change my mind” and “Kwanza isn’t real, change my mind.”
It gave the internet the one thing it’s always craving—a platform to voice objectively terrible hot takes about things no one was talking about in the first place. New taglines started popping up photoshopped on to the “change my mind” booth: “cereal is soup,” “tacos are just Mexican hot dogs,” “it’s called pop. Somehow even soothing little candles were caught in the crossfire with “candles are just pet fires." Luckily the fad died down before we had to hear too many lame attempts at stirring controversy, but it was long enough to feel glad it’s behind us.
—Taylor Hosking, Staff Writer
Yanny vs. Laurel
Back in May, an audio clip started circulating that was basically “The Dress” 2.0— some people claimed to hear “Yanny,” while others swore they heard “Laurel.” It was harmless internet fun with a pretty interesting sonic explanation, but the whole thing made me feel so, so old. With any and every outlet desperately covering any bit of viral dross they can get their hands on, does any of this stuff really even “break” the internet anymore? Does anybody actually care? What’s going on? Who am I anymore?
— Peter Slattery, Social Editor
Weird Flex, But OK
The first time I saw "weird flex, but OK," I let out an internal "lol." The 1,536th time I saw "weird flex, but OK," I prayed the apocalypse would end me stat.
—Eve Peyser, Staff Writer
Super Bowl Selfie Kid
From what I understand, there was this kid who got on TV during Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, and the cameras caught him taking a selfie with JT and looking at his phone.
The internet jumped in with their guesses of what this 13-year-old kid with what I assume is a rich dad or uncle was googling. Some of them were funny, but mostly I cared as much about this meme as I care about the NFL or anything Justin Timberlake has done since Future Sex/Love Sounds. This kid is already clearly set for life. He doesn't need our collective chuckles for being on his phone while Timberlake warbled some falsetto notes into a microphone while wearing the Duck Dynasty dude's wedding garb. He doesn't need to be chatting with Ellen for being privileged enough to set foot in a Super Bowl stadium let alone up close for the performance. It'll only turn a kid already in danger of becoming an asshole into a real child monster, demanding more Sunny D and Fruit by the Foots from the personal butler he forced his parents to get him. Fuck this meme.
— Alex Zaragoza, Senior Culture Editor
Ladies, He's Not Your Man
The idea of the "ladies, if he..." meme goes like this: someone begins a tweet or a social media post with that phrase, followed by a list of traits of a specific person. They end by saying, "he's that specific person." For example:
The above tweet is fine, but like most jokes, it got old real quick. Sadly, because it's a meme, it lives on perennially.
—Eve Peyser, Staff Writer
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.