2017 was such a rich year for memes, viral tweets, and internet sensations that you could practically chart the year’s entire calendar by when each one took over social media.
In fact, the list of popular memes from this year is so long I’ve had to confine it to my personal favorites. Here are the memes I think made the most impact this year.
One of this year’s earliest memes, Distracted Boyfriend is a stock photo taken as part of a set. It depicts a boyfriend looking over his shoulder at a beautiful stranger while the woman already on his arm looks at him in disgust. In 2017, that image became shorthand for anything new that turned the internet’s head.
It started gaining traction right at the beginning of the year, appearing on a few Facebook pages and Instagram posts before it was suddenly everywhere. Now it’s popularity has reached the point where people are actively seeking out the other photos from the shoot just to see what “happened” afterwards.
There’s something enchanting about a person who loves what they do, and no one demonstrated this with more flair than chef Nusret Gökçe. In an Instagram video with millions of views, Gökçe lovingly carves a steak, finishing with a salt sprinkle flourish that leaves his forearm more seasoned than the steak.
Thus was born Salt Bae. The application of the meme — Gökçe dusting salt — is pretty broad, some using it to highlight the eroticism of Bae’s art, while others used it as an way of saying someone was salty.
Blinking White Guy
The fluttering eyelids of a baffled Drew Scanlon were originally captured during an otherwise unremarkable Giantbomb video. Drew was reacting to a rather suggestive remark about garden tools.
Drew’s bemused reaction became of staple of 2017’s gif catalog, since it’s good for almost any situation. Stranger leaves impertinent response to your tweet? Blink. Facebook Friend tells a story of an inappropriate public encounter? Blink. Celebrity makes a fool of themselves on social media? Blink. Speaking of which…
In May, President Donald Trump, normally a provider of lengthy Twittercommentary, posted a tweet in what, for him, would have been the early morning hours. The tweet trailed off after the baffling word “covfefe.”
To say Twitter was amused by its most infamous patron’s gaffe would be like saying the logo is a tad on the avian side. Seven months later, and you can still find references to covfefe whenever someone talks about Trump. A bill designed to keep Trump from deleting his tweets was even called the Covfefe Act.
The Get Out Challenge
Started in March, this challenge was popular with younger social media viewers for a while. Inspired by a shot in the horror film Get Out — in which a character runs straight at the camera before abruptly swerving away — the challenge was to recreate the shot in various locations. It looks rather difficult, and more than one attempt ended with the runner on the ground.
You can dig up various compilations of people doing the Get Out Challenge, but one of the most popular examples — and my favorite — is NBA point guard Stephen Curry’s try. It’s probably the squeak of his shoes that really sells the energy of it.
One hungry teenager asked Wendy’s via Twitter how many retweets it would take for them to give him a year of free nuggets. They responded with what must have seemed, to them, like an impossible number: 18 million. Carter Wilkerson quickly reached out to Twitter for help…and boy howdy, did Twitter help him deliver.
Though Carter didn’t actually hit the crucial 18 million milestone, his tweet still became the most retweeted of all time — it’s currently at about 3.6 million. That was enough of an accomplishment for Wendy’s to meet him halfway, granting him the year of free nuggets and making him an internet hero.
If 2017 is a sign of things to come, we’re gonna be hip deep in memes by this time next month. I can only hope the covfefes, Carter Wilkersons, and Salt Baes of 2018 are as harmless and amusing as those of this year.