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The State Of The Internets In 2011

Year in Review: Best Memes of 2011

With another year's end quickly approaching, Know Your Meme community and staff count down the top 10 highlights of 2011 from the frontiers of the Internets. The Best Memes of 2011 were chosen by Know Your Meme community and research staff, based on the results of KYM Special Poll, site analytics data and comparison of keyword search interest. If you're looking a quick recap of the year, watch our resident scientist Kristina's introduction video to the Best Memes of 2011.

Rebecca Black's "Friday"

The Californian teenage girl Rebecca Black's rise to national fame with her autotuned pop single "Friday" was a moment of realization for many aspiring singers and producers: you don't necessarily have to be the best at what you do to be famous. Originally uploaded in early February, the video began receiving massive exposure on hubsites like YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr after coverage by The Daily What on March 11th, 2011. Within a week, the video gained over 10 million views and the digital single entered the top 100 on iTunes. Following a round of Black's news media appearances, "Friday" was endorsed by several celebrities, including Nick Jonas, Justin Bieber, Stephen Colbert and Snoop Dogg. In less than months, "Friday" garnered over 167 million views and an additional 10 million views from the reuploaded version after the original was removed from YouTube in June 2011. In mid-July, Rebecca Black released her second single "My Moment," which also gained over 22 million views.

  • KYM Gallery: Best of Rebecca Black Videos
  • KYM Gallery: Best of Rebecca Black Photos
  • KYM Infographic: Visual Analysis of Lyrics
  • Related Blog Post: So Bad It's Good

First World Problems

The frustrations of privileged citizens around the world has been a consistently trending topic on Twitter with #FirstWorldProblems, a hashtag used to make light of minor inconveniences that people of advanced societies often complain about, like having too many tabs open or still being hungry after brushing teeth. While the term "First World Problems" was first picked up by Urban Dictionary in August 2005, it didn't evolve into a widespread joke until its arrival on Reddit and Twitter in January 2011.

  • KYM Gallery – Best of First World Problems

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing series of protests in New York City and elsewhere across North America and Europe that seek to resolve socioeconomic inequality and curb the influence of corporate lobbying on Washington politics. Mostly coordinated via social networking services like Twitter and Facebook without a central organizer, the flash-mob demonstration began on September 17th, 2011 and the spirit of protests have since spread across dozens of cities and campus areas in the United States.

  • KYM Episode – Occupy Wall Street
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Occupy Wall Street Photos
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Occupy Wall Street Videos
  • KYM Entry – Occupy Oakland
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Occupy Oakland Photos
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Occupy Oakland Videos
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Hipster Cop Photos
  • KYM Entry – Pepper Spray Guy
  • KYM Episode – Pepper Spray Guy
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Pepper Spray Cop Photos


The Planking craze (shown above) began in March as a Facebook meme in Australia and New Zealand and quickly spread across the world with the launch of first annual Global Planking Day on May 15th. The meme went onto trigger an enduring series of similar photo fads like Owling, Batmanning and others. While Planking has reached the largest scale of participants, similar memes had been previously reported through Lying Down Game (UK / 2010) and Playing Dead (South Korea / 2003). Planking also had a casualty in May when a 20 year old from Brisbane, Australia fell to death from a 7th story balcony while attempting the game.

  • KYM Report – Planking
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Planking Photos
  • KYM Infographic – Planking vs. Lying Down Game vs. Playing Dead

Scumbag Steve

Scumbag Steve is an image macro series featuring a young man with a sideways fitted cap standing in a hallway. As the name suggests, the joke illustrates a wide array of "d-bag" stereotypes from high school and college years, like that guy who borrows your lighter and never returns it. In our interview with Blake Boston, the 21 year old Bostonite behind the face of Scumbag Steve, it was revealed that the picture was taken sometime in 2006 by his mother.

  • KYM Gallery – Best of Scumbag Steve Photos
  • Interview – Q&A with Blake Boston

X All the Y!

"X all the Y" is a snowclone and exploitable cartoon used to make a hyperbolic statement about performing an action. First published in the comic “This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult” (shown above) by illustrator Allie Brosh, she apparently sought to convey frustration with her inability to maintain a consistent enthusiasm for her daily responsibilities.

  • KYM Gallery – Best of X all the Y Images

Nope! Chuck Testa

Nope! Chuck Testa is a catchphrase coined by Californian taxidermist Chuck Testa and filmmakers Rhett and Link. The one-liner became immensely popular after the ad made for his business received massive attention through social news sites like Reddit in mid-September. The commercial features several family members of Testa being fooled into thinking taxidermied animals were alive before being told by the man himself who proclaims “Nope! Chuck Testa.”

  • KYM Episode – Nope, It's Chuck Testa
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Nope, It's Chuck Testa Photos
  • KYM Gallery – Best of Nope, It's Chuck Testa Videos

Nyan Cat

Nyan Cat is an 8-bit animation depicting a cat with the body of a cherry pop tart flying through outer space. While dada-influenced images like Cat on a Keyboard in Space and Cat Bread have been around for some time, this particular combination of Pop Tart Cat and the Japanese Vocaloid song Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya! has captivated YouTubers and online art communities, spawning dozens of fan illustrations, video remixes and even musical tributes.

  • KYM Photo Gallery – Best of Nyan Cat Images
  • KYM Video Gallery – Best of Nyan Cat Videos
  • KYM Video Collection – Nyan Cats with National Flags!

60s Spider-Man

60’s Spider-Man is an image macro series based on still shots from the original Spider-Man cartoon series, typically featuring an absurd internal monologue that correspond with the actions depicted in the images.

  • KYM Episode – 60s Spiderman
  • KYM Gallery – 60s Spiderman Videos

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

The epidemic sensation of My Little Pony in 2011 has been both formidable and persistent. Developed by the Powerpuff Girls illustrator Lauren Faust, the largely for-girls show has become an omnipresent fixture in the internet culture, triggering an epic internet fight between pro-bronies and anti-bronies, not to mention the moderates who think ponies are appropriate for only certain situations. Since its on-air debut in October 2010, the series became a popular source material for threadjacking, reaction images, and macro images on 4chan, YouTube and elsewhere online. Particularly on 4chan's /b/, those who are avid fans of the ponies have come to be known as “Bronies,” while the Bronies who post ponies mainly on /co/ have come to be known as "Colts."

  • KYM Episode – My Little Pony
  • KYM Gallery – Best of My Little Pony Images
  • KYM Gallery – Best of My Little Pony Videos

Search Interest

Out of the top ten memes that were selected, search queries for "Rebecca Black" set the highest peak in volume during its viral rise in March and April. The impact of "Friday" can be seen in sharp rise of search interest in April 2011, which was only surpassed twice this year with "Planking" in May and "Occupy Wall Street" in October.

In the seconded tier of searched terms, "Scumbag Steve" yielded the highest spike in February 2011, although "First World Problems" took over in the latter half of the year. The viral rise of Chuck Testa can be seen in the red line, which surpassed both "Scumbag Steve" and "First World Problems" at its peak.

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