How many funny memes did you share this year?
If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably shared hundreds, if not thousands, of hilarious social media posts with your favorite people, whether it’s your friends, family, or significant other. Some even consider swapping memes with their nearest and dearest a new love language but it’s not as out-there as you may think. We’ve all heard variations of that classic cliche that ‘friends/family/couples that laugh together, last together’, and social media has only made that easier.
Each year has its own unique mix of cultural moments and memorable, comical off-shoots and 2023 was no different. But the content never stops as new memes and trends continually pop up as old ones lose momentum. As we close out the year, what better time to take a look back on some of the best and funniest moments on social media in 2023?
What is a meme?
You may be tempted to say, “A meme is a meme!” with that ‘no-duh’ look on your face because memes have become a cultural staple of the internet revolution and social media culture, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know what a meme is. But if you have ever tried to explain exactly what memes are and where they came from, you might find yourself more than a little stumped.
In its simplest form: A meme is a digital image, piece of text, or video that often conveys situational or cultural humor that’s easy to copy and share. When a meme blows up, it gets shared and reshared with slight variations to the point of virality, when it becomes a trend on social media. The word ‘meme’ (pronounced ‘meem’) is believed to be coined by author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who crafted the word as a self-replicating unit of cultural transmission or imitation. Since then, ‘memes’ have become some of the most popular posts on social media, boosting relevance and leading the conversations around some of the biggest cultural/social moments of the 21st century with witty and sometimes irreverent commentary.
2023’s top 10 memes and trends
Memes are an integral part of the digital world and 2023 was no different. Anything and everything has the potential to be memed, from Rihanna’s pregnancy reveal at the Super Bowl to blockbuster movies, the coronation of King Charles, NPC live streams, and the Taylor Swift x Travis Kelce NFL love connection – these were some of the year’s biggest moments, and the internet was primed and ready to give us some of the best memes to keep us entertained all the way through.
As with any popular meme, countless versions are vying to reign as comedy supreme with the added virality to boot, but it ultimately comes down to who was able to put their own spin on things in the most original ways. It takes a very special creative to see a recorded moment or new meme template, grab it, and apply it to hilariously relatable life situations that resonate with millions of people.
So let’s take a look at who did it the best with some of the top-performing Memes and Trends that lived rent-free in our heads in 2023!
1. Staying true to the classics – Cat and dog memes
For many people at a certain life stage, their pets are the closest living things to having children. Not only do our furry friends have their own personalities but they also exhibit learned behaviors from their pet-parents.
Pets and pet content continue to be widely popular as many millennials – who may or may not be ready to take the ‘baby plunge’ – are opting for the more budget-friendly option of pet ownership as an alternative to kids or as a pre-baby practice step. It’s no wonder why – these adorable bundles of fur bring our families endless amounts of joy and love into our lives.
With the early success of the LOLcats era, it is no surprise that pets continue to be the source of some of the best memes and the virality of these memes even inspired widespread searches for the original pet videos before they became iconic.
The black cat zoning out
The expression of sheer superiority and utter condescension on the face of “the black cat zoning out” resonates with us all, especially in the moments when we question the intelligence or logic of those we love or encounter daily.
The car-driving cat
The “car-driving cat” swerving away from any minor (or major) inconvenience we experience at work or being the embodiment of our random thoughts and road rage experiences while we are driving on auto-pilot.
The confused dog
The completely “confused dog” meme, also known as the “awkwardly staring dogs”, captured our dumbfounded look perfectly when things like price inflation, unnecessary impromptu work meetings, awkwardness, or any unexpected answer rendered us shocked, speechless, or scratching our heads.
The dog’s human-like reactions and confused expressions were just the icing on the cake that made this meme go absolutely viral in the fall of 2023.
Pet meme combos
Equally genius is how people creatively combined different cat and dog memes together for a snapshot group effect of different personalities and mixed emotions in one adorable clip.
2. Meme king Pedro Pascal eats a sandwich and smiles at Nic Cage
Between new seasons of The Mandalorian and The Last of Us, 2023 was a big year for Pedro Pascal and he’s quickly become one of Hollywood’s most popular celebrities due to his versatility and acting prowess. Some of his most popular roles feature him playing a father figure and it’s led to him being unofficially crowned the ‘internet’s daddy’ with a seemingly endless supply of memes both about him and featuring him – and here are two of our favorites.
Pedro’s sandwich-eating meme
Everyone has those occasional moments of deep introspection where you ponder life’s hard questions, or maybe you’re just sitting around doing and thinking about absolutely nothing – what situation can’t be made a little more satisfying by munching on a sandwich?
Pedro Pascal’s PB&J sandwich-eating meme cropped up after his Snack Wars interview back in March this year. The clip has often been paired with many different backgrounds like an empty classroom, bedroom, or office to capture the solitude of a truly depressing or utterly unbothered moment of realization. The added benefit of pairing this meme with a clip of classical music and a loud, ASMR crunching-on-toast soundbite highlights that moment of finding some solace, tranquility, and self-soothing no matter what’s going on or where you may be.
Pedro in the car with Nic Cage
The Chilean actor went two for two with trending memes in 2023, this time with co-star Nicholas Cage sharing the meme spotlight for their 10-second car scene clip from the 2022 film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent featuring the song “Make Your Our Kind of Music” – a 1969 hit by Cass Elliot.
The expressions between these two actors really sold the meme with Nicolas Cage’s angsty glare of growing concern in direct contrast to Pedro’s blissfully carefree smile, creating a slow-motion meme masterpiece made even more cinematic by an iconic hit from the 60’s. I think we’ve all been Nic and Pedro at some point in our lives, which begs the question: Which one are you – the worry-wart or the happy camper?
3. Hey Barbie! (and Ken)
Ubiquitous Pink! The Barbie movie was a social media phenomenon that became a defining cultural moment. It had the most expensive and arguably the biggest social marketing campaign of the year, lasting more than six months, and the entire world turned hot pink for the premiere. The Barbie movie was the top-grossing blockbuster of 2023, making almost USD $1.3B worldwide – and who could forget its historic rivalry with Oppenheimer that sparked the ‘Barbenheimer’ meme that became a pivotal cultural moment that heightened awareness of both movies and fueled box office success for both films.
For the first six months of the year, Barbie dominated social media with huge brand collaborations like Crocs, Primark, and Forever 21 as Barbiecore became a fashion trend. Then, there was the gigantic 3D Barbie walking next to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Barbie also dominated airwaves and Spotify playlists with bangers like “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice, “What Was I Made For” by Billie Eilish, “Dance the Night” by Dua Lipa and “Pink” by Lizzo. The Barbie craze saw smaller companies and numerous influencers all jumping on the Barbie blitz to ride that wave. Even we here at Viral Nation hopped on the trend with our own Barbenheimer post!
Needless to say, the year’s most popular film would have its own library of endless meme potential from its brightly colored world and delightfully campy vibe with Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling – two of the biggest stars on the planet. The car scene where Ken surprises Barbie on her not-so-solo trip to the real world is a great example of the film’s many playful scenes. Nothing catches you more off-guard than the shock of seeing the one thing (or person) you weren’t expecting. Good thing overturning a toy car is less dangerous than doing so with a real one!
4. ‘Surprise, Surprise!’ and other viral sounds
Unexpected moments and past hit songs seem to be a running theme for memes. In the latter part of 2023, we saw a resurgence of the throwback, 1985 Cilla Black hit “Surprise, Surprise”, which seemed perfectly queued for all of life’s most unexpected and hard-to-believe moments – from work humor and embarrassing bathroom moments to doing the complete opposite of what is expected – Cilla’s voice echoed through all of our unforeseen moments in true showgirl style.
Also, a huge round of applause for the well-paired soundbites or backing tracks and songs that accompanied each meme or trend, making them not only visibly funnier but audibly accurate to the right mood! TikTok has confirmed that this year’s most popular songs were sped-up remixed versions of the originals.
Tiktok’s Playlist ranked “Collide” by Justine Skye (2014) at #1, “Cupid” by K-Pop group Twin Ver (2023) coming in at #2 and my personal favorite “Makeba” by Jain (2015) came in at #10, which immediately brings to mind the Bill Hader ‘Dancing in a Box’ meme.
5. “Ok! Well, that’s interesting. You know why?” “Why?”
This meme blew up in 2023 because who can’t relate to wanting to run away from your problems? No matter if it was a confrontation, question, or perceived threat we either couldn’t or didn’t want to face, running away without hesitation is something that we’ve all wished we could do at some point. So naturally, this soundbite and clip pulled from a scene in Parks and Recreation fully captures the instinctual ‘flight’ half of the fight-or-flight survival mode we hear internet therapists talking about. Maybe, in our minds, we want to be brave, but sometimes, it’s just easier to run away and hide, especially if you’re the type of person who’s very non-confrontational.
6. Girl Math / Boy Math
This trend sparked numerous versions that went beyond ‘girl math/boy math’ to include variations for other genders, races, pets, and even corporate math! The memes consisted of a litany of scenarios and it went viral as more and more people shared their ridiculous or downright outrageous logic behind stories of Boy Math or Girl Math – like this post from Yuri Lamasbella doing an impression of Kim Kardashian buying her $70M house ‘on sale’.
The Roman Empire
Another trend that highlighted how men and women think differently was the Roman Empire posts that encouraged girlfriends and wives to record their beau’s response to one very simple, albeit-out-of-the-blue question: How often do you think about the Roman Empire?
The staggering number of positive responses and the level of frequency ranging from thinking about it once a week to every seven hours, begs the obvious question… “But why?” Watching these guys desperately try to explain exactly why the legacy of the Roman Empire captivates them defied lady logic and is a hilarious testament to the glaring fact that most women don’t share that same interest.
7. Girl Dinner
When it comes to eating regular, healthy, well-balanced meals that make you feel satiated and fuelled up for the day – women can be more than ‘a little bad’ at being consistent in this regard. (I would know! I’m a major culprit of girl dinner, even to my digestive detriment, but I digress!)
Girl dinner, with its catchy harmonized chorus line, became a huge trend with major offenders proudly showing their version of girl dinner: a bag of potato chips with a glass of red wine, an ice cream bar, instant ramen with a handful of fruit or one scoop of Mac-N-Cheese with a single chicken nugget after a long day! It’s an amalgamation of any thrown-together meal made up of random bits-and-bobs as examples of how little (some) women manage to consume while still classifying it as a meal, but at least we prioritize drinking our water and staying hydrated!
On the flip side, there has been a growing craze surrounding the charcuterie board that’s lasted for years and continued into 2023! It’s become the next best thing to Lunchables for grown-ups and the perfect pairing for most ‘drinkies’ (wines and other alcoholic beverages), making it very girl-dinner friendly. With social media featuring hundreds of different ways to make a ‘traditional or themed’ or ‘sweet or savory’ charcuterie board, it seems to be the new go-to for every holiday, celebration, house party, and especially ladies’ night.
8. Mispronounced word shame
TikTok’s Stitch feature made direct responses to other creators so much easier by allowing users to ‘stitch’ a part of another video into their own. One of the trends that used this feature most effectively was the mispronounced word shame trend, which was kicked off by umgabi’s viral video about her own embarrassing mispronunciation in high school.
Everyone has had at least one of these moments happen in their lives (I, for one, said ‘Colonial’ instead of ‘Colonel’ in university, much to my lecturer’s confusion), and umgabi’s original video was stitched to countless hilarious recountings of botched pronunciations.
9. We are *fill in the blank*
Gaining steady popularity in the last few months of 2023 was the ‘We are’ trend. It features a series of short one-liners all starting with the self-identifier, listing colorful, witty, explanations or facts about a specific sect – job titles (consultants, lawyers, chefs, influencers, etc.), Millennials/GenZers/First Gen, siblings or only child, pets, tall or short… anything! It’s probably one of the easiest trends to foster widespread community and a sense of belonging, with social bonding over the unique things that make us who we are (or who we identify ourselves as).
#10 Wes Anderson’s aesthetic
Wes Anderson is an American filmmaker known for his artful movie production and eccentric theatrical aesthetic in movies like Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel to name a few. Wes Anderson, or at least his style, took social media by storm this year with avawillyums’ viral TikTok where she gave an ordinary train ride the ‘Wes Anderson’ treatment and shot it like one of his films (complete with whimsical music) back in April.
Her video inspired more creators from all over the world to take on the challenge of reimagining ordinary aspects of life in Wes Anderson’s beautifully cinematic style featuring the sound “Obituary” by Alexandre Desplat. This trend is an example of the creative possibilities of social media and its potential as a form of filmmaking that audiences everywhere can truly appreciate.
2023: That’s a wrap!
This list by no means sums up the incredible year we witnessed firsthand on social media. Amazingly, there is always something for everyone that fits any sense of humor.
If any of these tickled you pink or made you chuckle at the very least, then we have more things in common than you may think. And maybe that’s why funny content is so shareable – because we tend to find a connection in the things that give us mirth. Here’s hoping 2024 brings us more great humor and trends! No doubt it will.