Memes are no stranger to repeating themselves, but some themes have more mileage than others. This part of the year, in particular, always finds itself getting the same treatment. Eager to round off another tumultuous 12 months of the internet, many of the same tried-and-tested ideas come back into circulation, often with little to distinguish them from what came before. More so than any other time, the new year is internet culture’s Groundhog Day.
This repetition takes many different forms. Sometimes it’s more about the concept, with memes about dashed hopes or failed resolutions offering the predominant philosophy of a lot of content surrounding the new year. Other times it’s a straight-up copy-and-paste job, like Twitter’s crowd-pleasing snowclone If You Play This On New Year’s Eve — a meme with a lifespan as long as every song lyric and movie quote out there. Meanwhile, those with a taste for irony pillage normie image macros from the early to mid-2010s, assuring us that 2013 is going to be the best year ever.
The audience for these memes shows no sign of diminishing, and they seem to be an annual tradition continued into the new decade. All celebratory dates come with their associated rituals, but the reason this one carries over to memes more than others happens is through similarities in their psychology. Memes love a cultural reset button because it reaffirms their novelty. This time of the year, of course, is a literal promise of that concept.
Intertwined with this is a shared and complex relationship to defeat. New Year’s resolutions are one of the most well-known false promises out there: around 80 percent of them are doomed to fail, and failure is an integral part of meme culture’s lifeblood. Despite their contemporary impact, many character-based memes, like the Virgin vs. Chad dynamic, and situation-based memes, such as the more mainstream “relatable” captioned images, thrive thanks to a perpetual loser attitude. While it’s easy…
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