When was the last time you drove past an accident, and couldn’t resist — no matter how hard you tried — turning and trying to catch a glance of the mishap. Yes, the Internet is like that, and the best memes out there were some of the worst Internet accidents we’ll never forget.
The Internet is a series of unfortunate viral memes that sparked from some ludicrous and outrageous ideas, and then spread like a brush fire in high wind. Before you know it, the whole world is on fire with everyone talking about it, people discussing it at the water cooler, and companies even making Superbowl commercials infused with the viral meme.
An Internet meme is a powerful force that marketing companies covet, but it’s also an energy that is difficult to control. It often spreads so fast that few people know where it originated from. It’s often an idea that no one owns, so there are rarely royalty checks floating around every time someone uses it. Yet, if you ask around, you’ll find friends and colleagues who can recall one such meme from their own past.
They are often tragically idiotic, in very poor taste, or absurdly stupid. Yet, you can’t seem to get them out of you’re head. Therein lies the problem.
The Best Memes that We Can’t Seem to Forget
The nice thing about being a part of the growth of the Internet since the early 1990’s is that you get a chance to see and experience some of the most popular Internet memes that broke onto the Internet scene and spread across the world at lightning speed. The worst thing about being part of that growth is that you may have been forced to suffer through some of the most painfully idiotic viral memes of all time.
Therefore, it should go without saying that I’m using the term “best memes” to define those ideas that spread the fastest from human to human across the globe — fueled by the Internet. It is not to imply that there is anything good, moral or tasteful about any of these. In fact, in many cases the very opposite is true.
One of the best, in my humble opinion, was also one of the more recent ones. Yes, none other than Psy and Gangnam Style.
Psy is a pop star out of South Korea who released Gangnam style in July of 2012. It was his sixth album, but by December of that year, “Gangnam Style” — named after the lifestyle of Gangnam District in Seoul — became a virtual firestorm on YouTube. By December 21st, it had hit a billion views, and a year later the count was nearly 2 billion. It is YouTube’s most watched video.
Considering myself a connoisseur of fine rap music (stop laughing), I resisted watching Gangnam Style until mid 2013. Then, I caught wind from my Facebook friends of other people on YouTube making their own YouTube videos based on Gangnam Style. I watched a few and couldn’t stop laughing. I was hooked, and couldn’t stop watching them. I had caught Gangnam Style fever, along with everyone else.
One of my least favorite, but probably the most successful and virulent memes out on the Internet today was definitely that of LOLcats. It essentially originated the first time some avid cat-lover took a snapshot of their kitty and then added some silly caption to the photo. Unfortunately, in recent years, the images started showing up on social networks like Facebook and Twitter with captions that use what’s now called “lolspeak” — really, really bad baby-talk style humor meant to imitate how cats would probably speak if they could talk.
Personally, I hate LOLcat photos with a passion. It might be partly because I don’t really find cats to be that cute, but more-so because “lolspeak” comes across to me like someone making really annoying baby-talk to their cat. It’s annoying enough when people do baby-talk to their cats in real life, it’s even worse when it’s in-your-face on the Internet.
Of course, without LOLcats, I doubt the world ever would have enjoyed the antics of Grumpy Cat.
Still, you can’t argue that it’s one of the best memes out there. 4chan and I Can Has Cheezburger claim this one, but where it really started is debatable. I hope, some day, someone puts an end to it.
Name some of the worst songs of the 20th century. Setting aside anything by Britney Spears as a given, I’m thinking of some of those all-time horrible songs like “We Built This City” by Starship, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by Baha Men, or “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. But by far, one of the worst songs of the past few decades is easily “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.
What’s a “Rick Roll”? The idea is tricking someone on clicking a link in hopes of some interesting image or video, and instead getting sent to Rick Astley’s horrible 1980’s music video filled with really bad dancing and terrible music that will stay stuck in your head for days. It’s one of the best memes because it started in 2007 and remains one of the most common Internet pranks today.
There is one meme that I struggled to put on this list, because while it is certainly one of the most popular, it’s also ethically a bit disturbing. The meme I am referring to is the Anesthesia meme, where people — usually parents — post a video of their child after some major dental surgery. One of the most popular one of these that I can recall in recent years is the “David After Dentist” video captured in 2008 and posted to YouTube by his father in 2009.
In this video, a drugged up 7-year-old David DeVore Jr reacts to the after-effect of anesthesia with a series of questions like “Is this real life?” and “Is this going to be forever?” I have to admit, I chuckled a bit when the kid goes, “Okay….okay, now…I have two fingers.”
The more common video type within these meme is that of parents posting videos of their teens after a wisdom teeth extraction. You’ll find the usual behavior to be expected of someone who is pretty much high. The idea of recording my child going through such an episode and then posting it on the Internet never would have occurred to me. But apparently it has occurred to a lot of parents out there, as it’s still one of the more popular memes on YouTube.
For some reason, the best memes seem to come from the most surreal images or animations that you can possibly think of. That was definitely the case when it came to the Internet meme of the Dancing Baby. As the story goes, in 1996 Ron Lussier, a digital animator at LucasArts was messing around with the original Character Studio “cha-cha” dance source file developed by Michael Girard and Robert Lurye. Ron added a background track and shared it as a joke with one of his colleagues in the office.
His animated video spread around the office, and then soon spread across the entire Internet via email chains. You would have thought that the story ended there, but then if it did, this story wouldn’t be on this “best meme” list. Nope, the animation started to inspire all variations of dancing baby videos on YouTube, on television shows (like Funniest Home Videos) and all across popular culture.
The most recent incarnation of the meme was the dancing baby commercial produced by Evian Water company, where people walking by a large mirror on a busy city street realized that their reflection was themselves as a baby. Soon, a crowd was dancing to the song “Here comes the Hotstepper”, and the commercial clarified the question of why so many people are mesmerized by the Dancing Baby meme.
It’s because, when you take away the bleached hair and makeup, the dark suit and sunglasses, we’re all just dancing babies, aren’t we?
So, which Internet meme do you recall exploding into an unusually huge phenomenon? Pick your best — even Twitter has its share of hilarious memes. Share some of your own examples in the comments section below!
Image Credits: a.powers-fudyma Via Flickr