The top memes and viral videos of 2017

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Roll Safe in his BBC mockumentary
Image caption,
Roll Safe in his BBC mockumentary, in a pose that made him into a meme this year

When I sit down to put together this list, now into its sixth year, I like to reflect on the internet-year-that-was.

Noah Smith, a Bloomberg contributor, put it best in August when he tweeted: "Fifteen years ago, the internet was an escape from the real world. Now, the real world is an escape from the internet.”

Between fake news and cyber-attacks, bots and covfefe, the internet in 2017 sometimes felt like a treacherous and tedious place to be.

So much so, that as the year draws to a close, many of us are seriously examining the true effects social media has on our lives. Even Facebook has admitted its own service might not be that good for us, unless we actively participate.

With that in mind, consider this a list of the most active participants of the internet in 2017. The people that, whether intentionally or not (mostly not), provided laughs, relief or inspiration - and sometimes all three.

Anything Brexit-related has been excluded, and I've also side-stepped US politics (including a certain viral green frog).

There’s no scientific justification behind my choices, and, as ever, you’re welcome to tell me how wrong I am over on Twitter (you certainly did last time).

January was about… a Turkish chef

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The internet loves sass and saltiness. With Turkish chef Nusret Gokce, we got both. His stylish preparation reached its climax when he sprinkled some salt with an attitude that saw the father-of-nine nicknamed “salt bae”. The year’s first major meme was born.

"All of my feelings are coming from inside of the meat down to when I put the salt onto the meat,” Mr Gokce said of the moment.

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Kayode Ewumi is the talented mind behind Hood Documentary, a brilliant BBC Three mockumentary following Roll Safe (R.S), an aspiring grime artist in London.

The series was critically acclaimed, but Ewumi himself achieved global viral fame thanks to one screenshot - an image of R.S tapping his temple. The gesture proved to be a versatile meme for emphasising humorously-flawed logic.

February was about… the blinking man

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Despite being an image format older than the web itself, the Gif has an enduring appeal.

In February, a man captioned simply as “blinking guy” on Good Morning America, went viral - though the Gif in question was created more than two years prior. As is often the case with “reaction Gifs”, it was the caption, not the footage, that made the posts travel.

The man behind the blinks is Drew Scanlon, who pulled the bemused expression during a gaming video posted on YouTube by GiantBomb.

March was about… a joyous entrance

Media caption,

There was an unexpected distraction during a live interview on BBC News

If you had to just pick one video to represent 2017, this one would surely be it.

Prof Robert Kelly was, and still is, a regular fixture on BBC News, drawn upon for his expert insight into the goings on between North and South Korea. But one appearance put his own family centre stage.

As the expert talked to the BBC, his four-year-old daughter Marion, unmissable in yellow, burst into the room - marching like a young woman on her way to becoming world-famous.

Moments later, her brother James trundled in. And then, Jung-a Kim, the heroic wife and mother, came to save the day.

Prof Kelly worried his reputation was ruined - but it was quite the opposite. The moment struck a chord with anyone balancing home and work life - and sparked a debate about cultural stereotypes.

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Also in March, Meryl Streep started shouting lyrics at the top of her lungs. Once again, the caption is what made this one break through - the picture itself was from an awards show in 2015.

April was about… a smile

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Saffiyah Khan: 'It's been a strange experience for it to go viral'

This stunning picture of Saffiyah Khan at an English Defence League (EDL) rally in Birmingham, UK, spoke a multitude of words.

It was seen by many as a shining example of calm defiance in the face of loud hatred.

Ms Khan made the most of her viral fame. She spoke at several political events and did several turns as a model.

As the Guardian noted, the photo was taken just a week after Pepsi's atrocious attempt to create a similarly themed image. Its tone-deaf advert featuring reality star Kendall Jenner offering a drink to a police officer went viral for all the wrong reasons.

The firm later pulled the ad and apologised.

Meanwhile in Australia, newsreader Natasha Exelby was caught unawares, live on air. She missed her cue, momentarily stared dreamily at a pen she was holding, let out a loud gasp, and then threw to the sport.

An outpouring of support on social media wasn’t apparently enough to stop ABC dropping her from on-air duties.

“An overreaction to an overreaction,” commented Russell Crowe (yes, that one).

May was about… brushing up on your history

Animator Bill Wurtz starts you off with: “Hi. You’re on a rock, floating through space”. And over the next 20 minutes he takes you on a quick-fire, often hilarious, history of the world.

His video (contains strong language throughout) takes in the shifting global political powers at a rate no documentary would ever dare. There's a few liberties along the way, sure, but it’s delightfully informative: and more than 30 million people have watched it to date. Not bad for a history lesson.

June was about… a dancing hotdog

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As in 2016, when we were lucky to enjoy Pokemon Go, augmented reality was at the centre of another huge viral hit.

Users of Snapchat took a dancing hotdog to their hearts, often posting snaps showing the beefy little guy in a variety of precarious situations, such as getting hit by a train.

The hotdog was such a hit that it prompted Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, to produce its second-ever physical product: a dancing hotdog Halloween costume.

Speaking of Snap products, its first, you may remember, was Spectacles.

The glasses, which record video, initially proved extremely popular when released late last year. Now, however, there are hundreds of thousands of them piled high and unloved in warehouses.

July was about… a flip flop (and not much else)

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The flip flop trick video that went viral

It may have just been me, but July was pretty quiet on the viral front. Still, this trick shot of a flip-flop into a rubber ring put a smile on people’s faces. My question is always: How many times DIDN’T it work?

Anyway, between that and a nasty obituary (that later proved fake anyway), July really wasn’t one to remember.

August was about… the distracted boyfriend

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Your bog-standard memes typically come and go pretty quickly.

But every now and then you get something that joins the "A-list" and endures well beyond a few weeks.

From 2017, I think Distracted Boyfriend will be the meme that sticks around for years to come.

The cheesy stock picture it features was originally titled: "Disloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl”.

And that’s exactly what it is - though it's the versatility of depicting being distracted from what’s good for you in favour of something more exciting that makes this meme so adaptable.

It’s "crazy what people can imagine,” said Mario, the “boyfriend”, in an interview with NYMag.

September was about… Derry, the bat catcher

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The bat flew into the kitchen of Derry Fleming's home in County Kerry

If you want to up your chances of becoming a viral sensation, may I suggesting being Irish?

It’s a tried and tested formula, as Ruairi "frostbit" McSorley from 2015’s list would no doubt tell you.

Attaching the Irish demeanour and accent to a humorous situation makes for unstoppable viral success - and this year’s prize for Best Irish People on the Internet goes to The Flemings.

“Catch him, Derry!” shouts son Tadhg to his dad who is trying to catch a bat that has flown into the family kitchen.

Terrified mother Maureen, meanwhile, peers through the door. Eventually, it all gets too exciting for the dog who... well, watch the clip.

Meanwhile, a girl got stuck in a window after trying to throw away a poo on a first date and we all had a jolly good laugh at that.

October was about… a movement

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Critics of social media like to say it’s little more than frivolous rubbish: pictures of your lunch and stupid memes. That’s only half true, of course - the power of sites to push forward a movement can’t be disputed.

This year, empowered by reports in the press that took down some of the most powerful men in Hollywood and beyond, women the world over started posting their own experiences of sexual harassment on Twitter.

Under the hashtag #metoo, the stories gathered pace showing what many had known for a lifetime - that sexual abuse was, and is, everywhere.

November was about… a very British Black Friday

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If there’s one thing the British can agree on it’s that we’re not Americans. And though there may be more similarities between our people than we’d care to admit (or even realise), we do like to think we’re above the undignified spectacle that is a raucous Black Friday stampede.

You know the scene - doors open and a crowd piles in, desperate to get one of the few TVs at a special discount. Panic, trampling, fighting - oh no, not us. We save that sort of thing for the opening of a new Ikea.

Anyway, the BBC’s Frankie McCamley captured it best with this clip from Currys PC World on Oxford Street. How the staff kept things orderly I’ll never know.

Speaking of anti-climaxes, November also saw a distinct lack of drama in front of the Weather Channel’s cameras. The crew had wanted to get footage of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta being demolished… but instead were interrupted by a bus. Gutted.

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Oh, and the internet had a great laugh over this disturbingly proportioned bear on sale on Amazon.

“Long legs but otherwise good,” wrote one review.

December was about… starting over

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Jeffrey and Lorrie Agan were married for 25 years until their divorce in 2014. But, according to this piece from Buzzfeed, they recently started dating again.

On Christmas Eve, Jeffrey re-popped the question, proving it’s never too late to give something a second chance.

And with that, I hope you enter 2018 with as much purpose as little Marion Kelly, or at least the confused innocence of baby James.

Happy New Year.