Memes are today’s Esperanto, transcending location, culture and sometimes even language to communicate common experiences. Wherever you go, cute animals are cute, social awkwardness is painful, and nobody likes jeans with fake pockets.
But there are some memes that are especially transcendent, well-crafted and universally relatable, almost classics. Think of them as the “Great Gatsby” of internet culture, but with fewer heavy-handed metaphors about the death of the American dream (usually).
Maybe future historians will study our high-quality memes, maybe they won’t (I don’t envy whoever is given the job of explaining exactly what happened with Pepe). If they are, I’d nominate these 25 memes for inclusion in the literary canon.
1. The most common fear, even above death and taxes, is public speaking. Speaking in front of a group of people, no matter how small the group is, is guaranteed to trigger the little scared herbivore bit in the back of our brains. But, I guarantee you, people usually aren’t listening to you as critically as you think they are, and they aren’t likely to notice your little mistakes. All you need to do is try your best, and hope your performance doesn’t get much negative coffee.
2. This doesn’t stop when you’re out of school, either. Catch me planning my entire outfit around my new tie and contorting my body into increasingly uncomfortable positions to ensure that it’s front and center no matter who I’m talking to.
3. Ah, Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, when you’re sobbing on the floor of a suburban Walmart in front of the $5.99 clearance rack trying to buy gifts for the relative who sweetly insisted that they “didn’t need anything” and that “all I want is to spend time with you.”
4. One time, I was hanging out with a five-year-old relative, and we saw a woman carry her sobbing baby past, and he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Same,” and let me tell you, I’ve never been more afraid for the emotional state of a generation before.
5. Me: I’m really not a petty person, I don’t like drama at all. Also: coordinates my walking speed to the speed of strangers on the street just so I can hear as much as possible of their conversation complaining about their coworkers, who I don’t even know.
6. You know, someday, someone is going to write a thinkpiece about how millennials’ constant use of “me” and “same” points to a deeply-seated, emotionally-fragile narcissism that will be the ruin of our entire generation and, honestly, mood.
7. In Jean-Paul Satre’s play “No Exit,” three people are put in a room in Hell specifically to torment each other forever. While the door is open and they’re capable of leaving, they refuse to because they all want to make the other two see their perspective. See also: Twitter.
8. My friends: in mature, long-term relationships, engaged, in graduate school, working overseas in the jobs of their dreams. Me: trying to suckle my roommate’s dog with a peach-flavoured juice box while she’s away for the weekend because he looks thirsty and I’m worried that his water isn’t giving him enough electrolytes.
9. When everyone at the party is talking about how their low-carb paleo diets absolutely changed their life and cleansed their colon and you can tell that they’re about to start asking you for your position on bread, so you’re frantically texting your friends for an excuse to escape before they smell your weakness and attack.
10. Not pictured: me and my friends convincing each other to buy complete replica Star Wars costumes (lightsaber included!) over the internet at two in the morning when we both know we have student loan debts.
11. I tried to explain this one to my therapist, but she didn’t know what memes were, and then I had to explain memes to her before I could explain this, and then because I was describing it in words, it wasn’t funny anyway but I’d already sunk so much of my time into explaining it that I doggedly persisted and long story short, there are times you don’t really need to talk about memes.
12. Things that an octopus is capable of escaping from heavily-monitored aquarium tanks that have been tested and proven to be child-safe, are sharks, lobsters, and sealed boxes. Things that an octopus is not capable of escaping from the crushing psychological weight of its own mistakes.
13. Sometimes, I’m genuinely concerned that my generation has become experts at emotionally distancing ourselves from our actual problems by building a thin shell of sarcasm around our hearts that will ultimately make it far harder for us to be genuine in relationships and to be sincere about things that really deserve sincerity lol.
14. Me, giving a double thumbs-up while trembling slightly because I’ve just had enough coffee to astral-project into the evil version of our universe and I haven’t eaten anything yet in the day, while I’m fielding an unexpected call from my parents where I have to convince them I’m doing well:
15. I hate the fact that this is from 2015 and it’s still relatable. It makes me feel like a grandmother taking her good memes out of their little plastic coverings to show her grandchildren, and explaining that I’ve preserved them so well so I can pass them down to them while they quietly think about how they’d really rather be hoverboarding on the hypernet.
16. I dunno, man. They say that doctors are bound by “doctor-patient confidentiality” but clearly my doctor had no problems leaking every single one of my appointments to the whole internet.
17. When you told your friends you were going to be polite and sociable at the party tonight, but you’ve just knocked back three vodka crans and that friend you hate is complaining about “political correctness” again and asking why you’re letting out high-pitched, angry giggles after everything they say:
18. Listen, I don’t care about “politeness.” If I learned how to die my way out of those conversations with university acquaintances where everyone’s talking about their 401K and humblebragging about how hard it is having such an important job, I’d do it immediately and have no power in the galaxy could stop me.
19. It’s always tricky knowing when to leave the party late enough that you aren’t missing out on anything important but early enough that you don’t have to play therapist to all the Sad Drunks. Rule of thumb: if you’re having to scoop someone’s vomit out of the fish tank while the dry ice machine sets the fire alarm off, you’ve stayed too long.
20. Saying that you can’t avoid your way out of your problems is quitter talk, and I didn’t earn my Running-From-My-Emotional-Difficulties-Half-Marathon world champ title by being a quitter. Besides, if I can’t run away from my problems, then how am I supposed to get my cardio in?
21. Correct procedure for checking your bank account balance: set up a circle of salt on your bedroom floor, Gregorian-chant the lyrics to Rihanna’s “B*tch Better Have My Money” in E minor, search up the webpage of your bank, type in your information, get scared, slam the computer shut, stress-clean your kitchen, repeat.
22. If I were to explain memes to, say, a seventeenth-century Finnish cartographer, I’d probably use this meme as my example, because it has all the components of a classic: Weird-looking animals, negligible punctuation, irreverence towards authority figures, and a sense of existential despair thinly veiled in humour.
23. You love your family! You really do! But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the presence of your conspiracy theorist uncle, your cousin who “loves you but doesn’t agree with your lifestyle choices”, and your highly-strung aunt sometimes make the heart go into coronary arrest.
24. Going down to the fridge to get water at night is such a primal, universal experience. The walls of reality always seem a little thin, the clock always seems to read 2:37, the water tastes simultaneously drier and wetter than water should taste. Real points to this meme for capturing that emotion in words (extra points for the feeling of genuine dread it induces in me)!