COVID-19. Brexit. The Australian bushfires. Global street protests. For most of us, it’s been an excruciatingly long year, full of anxiety and sadness. But all the drama has also provided fertile soil for memes, especially with so many of us glued to our screens in lockdown. Whether it was all the parodies of Gal Gadot’s celebrity sing-along train wreck, or Ghana’s ineffably adorable dancing coffin-bearers, social media memes and challenges helped us while away all the empty hours and even learn to chuckle at all the chaos around us.
So we put together a list of some of our favourite memes and social media trends of 2020. Here’s the year in memes.
1. The Dolly Parton Challenge
Back in January, when COVID-19 was still an obscure little bug in China, Dolly Parton kicked of the Dolly Parton challenge, which encouraged users to share a collage of their profile pictures on different social media platforms to show that they could “do it all”. I’m not sure if Dolly Parton meant the challenge as a comment on how we curate our identities online for different communities, but that aspect has become even more critical in hindsight, as much of human social interaction shifted online. Oh and it led to some great and creative memes too, with Cyrus Broacha giving it a great desi twist.
2. Everything is… CAKE?!
The “everything is cake” phenomenon raged across social media in July like a Californian wildfire, the surreal icing on top of the absurd gateau that was 2020. Food brand @Tasty provided the spark with a video collage of cakes that looked like everyday things, from toilet paper to potted plants, until you sliced them open.
Apparently the baker Illuminati took this as a challenge, and made it their mission to turn absolutely everything into cake. And we do mean everything.
The trend eventually ran out of steam once things got so weird that people started questioning reality.
That’s it, that’s the meme.
Just the word should be enough to describe this meme but for those of you who were still coming back to your senses after the cake fiasco, here’s an explanation. On 15 July 2020, YouTuber Slayy Point uploaded a video titled ‘Why Indian Comments Section is Garbage (BINOD)’ where they went through a ton of comment sections on YouTube and stumbled across a user Binod Tharu, who for reasons unknown to man gave us the most meme worthy comment of the year: “Binod.”
For an audience locked in and filled up to the brim with boredom, this was enough to unleash their inner Binod.
Binod soon became a household name with Vir Das, Raunak Rajani and Kusha Kapila hopping on the Binod train.
4. 2020 Mood Calendar
By the time August rolled around, the novelty of the apocalypse had worn off a little, and boredom had well and truly kicked in. So when Reese Witherspoon came up with her own 2020 challenge, it really struck a nerve. Witherspoon’s macro—nine pictures of her, each depicting her mood during one of the nine months that had passed—perfectly captured the lockdown fatigue we were all feeling.
The challenge quickly picked up with Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Mindy Kaling and ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Mark Ruffalo chipping in with their own versions, along with millions of regular social media users.
5. How it started v/s How it’s going
It’s a rare thing to find love during a pandemic but somehow against all odds Twitter user @vjllanelles managed just that. She even took the time out to share her journey, from how it started with a DM and how it ended with her and her partner embracing.
However, as all things go, this wholesome little macro inspired a host of spin-offs with some sticking to the original romantic format, while others updated us on their work life, academic life or used it ironically.
6. This claim is disputed
If there’s one thing this year has not lacked in, it’s irony. It’s one thing to have your claims termed fake by the political opposition but it’s even worse to have platforms such as Facebook and Twitter dispute your claims. But that’s what (finally) happened to Donald Trump in the aftermath of the election.
Trump’s fraudulent attempt in November to claim the election was quickly shot down by Twitter itself when it added a disclaimer to his tweets, and netizens were quick to make it the laughing stock of the internet.
7. Elf on The Shelf
This one is a holiday classic. The internet has been making “You’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf, now get ready for…” memes since at least 2016, but it never gets old. This year, American actress Garcelle Beauvais took the internet by storm when she posted a photo-shopped image of herself sitting on Pharell William’s shoulder as her own take on the meme.
This led to an array of photo-shopped images flooding the internet with celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Priyanka Chopra Jonas joining in (these two had a lot of free time this year, didn’t they?).
8. Bonus: Reel-er Madness
While mostly unpleasant, 2020 has been a year full of surprises. When TikTok got banned and Instagram announced its short-video section Reels at the same time, most people just laughed at Instagram so blatantly trying to copy its emerging rival. But the reels has quickly become an attention-grabber, helped along by the timely Indian ban of TikTok. Most of the credit though, should go to the social media users who used the opportunity to create and push out some of the craziest edits and short-video content out there.
We’ve had ‘Playdate’ edits featuring several of our favourite actors and actresses go viral followed by if people had ‘30 second trailers’ all the way to ‘Main Tera’ edits which the Instagram algorithm seems unhealthily obsessed with. But the biggest and best of all, of course, was Yashraj Mukhate, with his musical exploration of the age-old philosophical question—”rasode mein kaun tha?”