We all know that the spread of a meme online has a beginning, a middle and an end. When we at The Intersect thought, “Hey! let’s find a way to show how that works,” we decided it would be a good idea to make a timeline of 2015’s memes, as many as we could find, to show what a year online looked like in a slightly different way. At least one of us thought it would be a fun project for a slow time of year.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
But we did it, thanks in large part to the hard work of Meme Documentation, a Tumblr that documented memes through the entire year. It’s run by three friends who started the project as high schoolers, moderator Justin Bai (aka Mod Virgo) said in an email. Bai, along with Ariel Sauri (Mod Fish) have since started their first year at college, while Vonnie Wei (Mod Sag–short for Sagittarius) is still in high school. They were nice enough to give us permission to use their work for this timeline.
Tracking memes is a lot of work, in part because they move so quickly but also because they’re kind of hard to define. In their broadest sense, they are just ideas that are shared, Tumblr’s in-house “meme librarian” Amanda Brennan, said in an interview. They come in almost any medium – photo, video, text, or a combination of both.
This timeline focuses on the memes and their spread specifically on Tumblr, in part because between the work of Meme Documentation and Brennan’s own in-house work for Tumblr, the spread and patterns of meme-ing there are very well documented. But Tumblr users also served as one of the dominant meme incubators for the year as well – another good reason to focus on the site.
“I am hesitant to make any grand sweeping statements about memes because of their multifarious nature, but I am willing to conjecture that one of the appeals of memes is that they are not widely received by the general public,” Bai said, “Calling it a counterculture may be a bit too extreme, but memes tend to hinge on the fact that they are not a part of the mainstream. If a meme becomes mainstream, it loses its appeal and novelty factor.”
You’ll notice that a lot of these memes aren’t very visual. According to Brennan, 2015 was kind of the year for playing with language in memes – while advice animals may still be on your Facebook feed, most Internet people are pretty tired of them.
Anyway, behold 2015 in memes. Also, RIP all of these memes, they are now written up in The Washington Post and therefore dead, if they weren’t already.
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