No matter what is going on in the real world, the Internet can always be counted on to provide two things: cats and memes. With the end of the year approaching, now is a great time to look back on some of the best memes of 2016 — and trust me, there were some pretty rad candidates. While the rest of the world was off electing tiny-handed presidents, freaking out over the possibility of a thirteenth zodiac sign, and mourning the end of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's marriage, the Internet provided glorious, round-the-clock distraction. If you're anything like me, you could always count on Angry Michael Phelps for some much-needed laughs this fall. (It's the little things.)
As the Internet continues to spread across the world, memes have wound up being a great way to define the year beforehand. Remember Alex from Target? So 2014. Last year, Drake dominated Internet culture after the release of the "Hotline Bling" music video, and Left Shark ruled by his side. 2015 was a tough year to follow, but 2016 somehow managed to top it — not least because Kermit, always an excellent provider of memes, made a last-minute appearance.
But not all memes are created equal. Some are born and flourish, while others wither away in the dark corners of Internet searches. This week, Google released data exploring the trends that defined 2016, and obviously, this means memes. Without further ado, here are the ten most popular memes of the year, according to Google's Year in Search.
When the 17-year-old silverback gorilla Harambe was killed a Cincinatti Zoo, nobody could have anticipated how his memory would live on online. Harambe was the most popular meme of the year, and something tells me the references are here to stay.
2. Damn Daniel
I have no idea why "Damn, Daniel" is so appealing, but it never fails to make everyone laugh. No wonder it's the second most popular meme of the year.
3. Pokémon Go
"Pokemon Go" may no longer be everyone's favorite way to waste time, but it made a huge impact while it lasted.
4. Dat boi
Don't understand dat boi? Me either, but this unicycling frog proved to be enormously popular.
5. SpongeBob Caveman
The SpongeBob caveman meme hits millennials right in the nostalgia.
6. Michael Phelps
The Olympics are always the perfect opportunity for memes, and the Rio Games didn't disappoint. Angry Michael Phelps was everywhere this fall, and I'm a huge fan.
7. Donald Trump
The only thing surprising about this is that Donald Trump memes aren't higher up on the list.
8. Making a Murderer
Before Stranger Things, everyone was obsessed with Making a Murderer. As always, this led to hundreds of memes.
9. Ken Bone
Mild-mannered Ken Bone was the best part of the second presidential debate, and the Internet welcomed him accordingly. Halloween was pretty much a sea of red sweaters and glasses.
After Birdman stormed out of an interview caught the attention of the Internet last spring, the rapper found himself the subject of hundreds of memes.
There you have it! Those were the most popular memes of 2016. I don't know how next year could possibly produce any better ones, but we'll have to wait and see.