The Best (& Most Important) Memes Of 2020

Photographed by Refinery29.
Dictionary.com says a meme is "a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way." Merriam-Webster defines "meme" as "an idea, behavior style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture."
But here is where we go full-on galaxy brain. Wikipedia, of all places, has one of the most intense takes on memes, describing them as, "a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution." According to that definition, with every edit and remix, we breathe new life into memes, and when they drop out of circulation, they die. So like living things, memes fight for survival "through processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance." 
Black Mirror writers, take note because Wikipedia also says that "memes that replicate most-effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts." So the "best" memes are the ones that go viral, whether or not they're relatable or funny.
When we look back on the year in memes, we find some of the most absurd and twisted content to hit the mainstream internet. When we laughed at memes about World War 3 in January, we didn't expect to also make memes about coronavirus just a few weeks later. We didn't just make memes to lift our spirits, we made memes for attention, we made memes to spread important information, we made memes to find our people and to communicate. Sometimes we're all in on the joke — like with the "Nature Is Healing" and "This is a cake" memes — when we're all riding the same absurd giggle wave together. Sometimes the jokes fall flat or go too far — like celebrities meme-ing themselves or misguided Black Lives Matter memes.
2020 saw the meme reach new heights. Memes aren't just jokes we share online. They document real-life, both good and bad, funny, and unfunny. Yes, they often make us laugh and the best ones surely do. 
After a year of documenting viral memes, one month at a time here is the definitive list of the best, most-shared, and most-important memes of 2020.

More from Tech

R29 Original Series