From Distracted Boyfriend to Grumpy Cat, here are the top 15 memes of the decade

The internet has really blessed us these last 10 years.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture. Credentials
  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Abrar Al-Heeti
6 min read

Memes galore. 

James Martin/CNET

If there's one cultural phenomenon that's defined the last decade, there's a strong argument to be made for memes. They've undoubtedly shaped online humor and interactions, spurring countless pages and groups on sites like Facebook , Instagram and Reddit. 


Memes have become somewhat of a unifying force, bringing people from all walks of life together to show how much we have in common. We relate to friends and reminisce about shared experiences by tagging them in various posts. Memes have also become a way to communicate and react to things on social media, from political news to pop culture events to internet phenomena.  

The popularity of memes has skyrocketed in recent years with the rise of social media. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have made it easier to share and find content, bringing much joy to our lives in the process.  

The internet has blessed us with countless quality memes in the last decade, so single-handedly choosing the top 15 is too big a responsibility for any one soul to bear. I employed the help of CNET's reporters and editors in selecting the most memorable and influential content that's graced the internet. 


Well, hello there.

Know Your Meme

1. Distracted Boyfriend

This meme won the top spot among our staff by a landslide. What began as a stock image depicting a guy checking out another girl (to the horror of his girlfriend) became one of the most versatile (and, in some places, controversial) memes on the internet. People quickly began captioning the image with various scenarios conveying jealousy or altering the people pictured (a distracted girlfriend meme appeared a short time later). Distracted Boyfriend is the perfect representation of internal conflict, hilariously illustrated by a scenario in which a relationship is threatened by cheating and jealousy. We really do find humor in everything, don't we.


I am my own worst enemy.

Know Your Meme

2. Evil Kermit

Evil Kermit, illustrated with one Kermit talking to another in a black cape, represents the evil that lives within us all. It's that voice that tells us to eat that second (or third) cookie, or to put off studying. It depicts our internal struggle to try to be good but ultimately be tempted by our dark inner voice. 

Grumpy Cat dislikes Affleck

Some Batman fans are feeling a little grumpy.


3. Grumpy Cat

Rest in peace, our old friend. Grumpy Cat, who rose to fame in 2012 after an image of her was uploaded to Reddit, is essentially a 2010s meme OG. Her unimpressed expression -- the result of dwarfism and an underbite -- is a total mood. This reaffirmed that cats and the internet are a perfect match

4. Side Eyeing Chloe

It's hard to impress Chloe. Not even a trip to Disneyland could phase her. Chloe's distrubed reaction in this YouTube video -- in which she and her sister are told about a surprise trip to Disneyland -- spurred the viral meme that's become the go-to reaction for any questionable Facebook status or tweet.



Know Your Meme

5. Success Kid

Look at that pure joy and enthusiasm. This kid quickly became the meme poster child for successes ranging from finding money in your pocket to having both Starburst in a 2-pack be pink. Depending on whether you see the glass half full or half empty, the image (which is also known by the name I Hate Sandcastles) can also be used to express frustration, making this an all-around solid meme.

6. Blinking White Guy

Perplexed. Shocked. Incredulous. These are all ways Drew Scanlon, formerly a video producer at Giant Bomb, probably felt when he made the face that immortalized him as Blinking White Guy. This meme is applicable whenever someone says something you can't believe just came out of their mouth, aka every day on Twitter.


Shiba Inu says, "Seriously?"

Know Your Meme

7. Doge

Cute dogs and hilarious expressions are a recipe for meme success. This image of a Shiba Inu with a memorable camera pose became a template for random internal monologues relayed in broken English. You know a meme's a big deal when it inspires its own cryptocurrency

8. Is this a pigeon?

Is this a pigeon?

Is this...?

Know Your Meme

Life can be very confusing sometimes, as this meme so perfectly illustrates. Taken from a scene in the Japanese anime TV series The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird, in which a character mistakes a butterfly for a pigeon, this image has come to represent all the times people confuse one object or scenario for another. Is spending countless hours on Twitter synonymous to being productive? Are you going to die from a slight pain in your body? No, but you should probably get your vision (or perspective on life) checked. 


I really don't know.

Know Your Meme

9) Futurama Fry/Not Sure If

This meme is the perfect visual representation for all the times you've tried to figure out someone's intentions or piece together a puzzling scenario. Fry's squinty eyes and bemused look make for an appropriately universal image of confusion. Accompanying text like "Not sure if wrong password or wrong username" and "Not sure if smart or just British" are proof this meme is versatile and highly relatable. 


Black and blue or white and gold?

Know Your Meme

10. The Dress

This picture has probably destroyed friendships and torn families apart. The world was split over whether this image showed a dress with white and gold stripes, or blue and black stripes. Those of us who saw the former had to swallow our pride when it was revealed the dress is in fact blue and black. 

The Dress did offer a cool opportunity to learn about why we see things differently. Still, science is no match for ego, and I will continue to argue that the dress is gold and white until the day I die. Fast forward three years, and we were once again fighting over whether we heard "Yanny" or "Laurel" in this audio recording.


Sip that tea.

Know Your Meme

11. But That's None of My Business

This meme has all the sass. It's a perfect fit for all the times you've wanted to call out someone's sketchiness or rant about their questionable behavior. Kermit's blank stare as he takes a sip of tea goes with just about any insult you can throw at someone.



Know Your Meme

12. Overly Attached Girlfriend

You know this girl. You probably went to middle school with her. She's that person you ended up befriending -- or worse, dating -- only to realize she's actually insane. But it's too late now. You're already BFFs and she wants to have sleepovers every other weekend.  

What stemmed from a YouTube parody of Justin Bieber's single "Boyfriend" became the perfect illustration of a girl who just won't let you out of her grip. Captions like "I was looking through your texts earlier. Who's mom?" and "I sewed my name on your shirts in case you forget you're taken" really drive the creepiness and hilarity of this meme home.



Know Your Meme

13. Disaster Girl

The devilish look on this child's face is both chilling and incredibly amusing. A man took this image of his daughter Zoe as a nearby house was burning down, and her frighteningly mischievous expression made this prime meme content. People online began superimposing Zoe's face onto pictures of other incidents, from the sinking of the Titanic to the crash landing of the US Airways flight into the Hudson River in 2009. That villainous look works for just about any scenario.   

14. Math Lady

Math Lady

So complex.

Know Your Meme

This lady's expression is how we look when someone says something that just doesn't add up. It also comes in handy when they say something ridiculous like "My kid is 34 months old." For the love of God, just say 2. 

The meme originated with an image of Brazilian actress Renata Sorrah in a telenovela scene. Add in the perplexing math problems floating around her and it's since become the perfect image of confusion.

15. You vs. the Guy She Tells You Not to Worry About

There's no better way to compare two things that just don't measure up. From that Pinterest recipe that turned into an utter disaster to those two actors who look alike except one is way hotter, You vs. The Guy She Tells You Not to Worry About hilariously illustrates things that just didn't live up to their potential. This meme can include just about anyone or anything, from soda machines to fast food ice cream offerings.