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The Internet Is Exploding: The Best Articles, Memes, and Pictures of 2020

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Honestly, this year was very hard to remember. It seems like every day was a decade. Time was simultaneously at a standstill and moving at a blistering pace. This year was a lot and much of it happened on the internet. Highlights: 2020 in pictures, memes, TikTok, songs, longform writing and journalism, TV shows, movies, and weird websites.

1. New York Times: A Year Like No Other

Pick of the List: I don’t have a pick of this list, but I find it interesting (and very New York Times) that it focused mostly on tragedy or what appears as tragedy—even in images of “jubilant celebrations” people look devastated—and not the small moments of joy many of us have had to find for ourselves this year. 

What’s Missing: Memes! (Or any online content.) Considering that most of us spent much of 2020 online, this curated timeline of photos took great effort to seemingly negate that. Yes, there are some images of people on their laptops or on screens, but the photograph makes it exceedingly clear that the images were taken in the analog world of digital space, and not generated in the digital space itself. This curatorial decision felt very different from the way I experienced 2020.

 

2. BuzzFeed: The 39 Most Defining Memes of 2020

Pick of the List: Finding a good list of memes is always the hardest and I never feel satisfied with any list. I would also note that some of the things included are not exactly memes but viral challenges, which are slightly different. On this list, I love number 37, which consists of “A still image of Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) saying ‘I am going to create an environment that is so toxic’” from the first season of Glee. I’m honestly not sure why I like this meme so much, it just feels very accurate to me. 

What’s Missing: There are a lot of memes missing because there were so many memes made this year—we basically lived via memes! The election memes were top-notch, but art memes have given me much joy while also stabbing me in the heart. One of my favorite accounts is @freeze_magazine on Instagram. “They don’t know” has also become very popular as the year closes out. And here is another list of memes from Complex, many of which aren’t included on BuzzFeed. 

 

3. BuzzFeed: Here Are The Top 10 Viral TikToks Of 2020

@420doggface208

Morning vibe #420souljahz #ec #feelinggood #h2o #cloud9 #happyhippie #worldpeace #king #peaceup #merch tacos #waterislife #high #morning #710 #cloud9

♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

Pick of the List: I feel like this year was the year of TikTok, at least in terms of social media platforms. I’m not on TikTok, but I was inundated with the videos as they spread to various social media platforms and my friends with accounts barraged me with videos. Although one can be static while scrolling through TikTok, the platform feels chaotically high-energy to me (which is one of the reasons I don’t have an account) and I was pleasantly surprised the first time I watched Morning Vibe. “The immaculately chill vibe of this video from Nathan Apodaca, also known as @420doggface208 who had the most likes on TikTok with his clip and brought a much-needed moment of calm to this awful year.”

What’s Missing: I feel like there were a lot of dance challenges to Megan Thee Stallion songs on TikTok this year. Perhaps not one of those singular videos went viral enough to make this list, which is based on “total engagements on the app including views, creations, growth and likes,” according to the company, but I did see those videos everywhere this year. 

 

4. NPR: The Best Songs of 2020

Pick of the List: “Lost One” by Jazmine Sullivan. This song comes in at number 12 on NPR’s list and was the first song released from Sullivan’s upcoming project, Heaux Tales. I’ve loved this song since it was first released in August and still listen to it on almost a daily basis. 

What’s Missing: Anything from Zsela, whose debut EP was released in April. I’ve followed Zsela since May 2019, when the video for her first single was released. Her lyrics leave room for her listeners to wade through their various interpretations, guided by a voice that is warm, distinct, and clear. Although I enjoy all of Zsela’s EP, Ache of Victory, I probably would have included my favorite song, “Undone.”

 

5. Merriam-Webster: Word of the Year 2020

Pick of the List: Schadenfreude” is definitely my pick as I had no clue the word existed until I read this list! Searches for the word, which means “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others,” were up 24,800% this year! I will surely start using “schadenfreude” as soon as I get the pronunciation down. 

What’s Missing: AAVE!!! There were huge debates about African-American Vernacular English, or AAVE, on the internet this year as many post-woke millennials and Gen-Zers flaunted digital blackface on TikTok and other social media platforms. I understand why people wouldn’t look up “chile” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, but that word and its usage was a topic of conversation on Twitter

 

6. Longform: Best of 2020

Pick of the List: “The Internet of Beefs” by Venkatesh Rao is one of the best and most interesting explanations of the internet and its culture that I have read. I think I like this article so much because it doesn’t read as much as a defense or rejection of the state of the internet, rather observations and historical analysis. 

What’s Missing: It is hard to pick what is missing from this list but Kiese Makeba Laymon had some amazing essays this year that have been included on other lists. The two I’m most familiar with, “Now Here We Go Again, We See the Crystal Visions” and “Mississippi: A Poem, In Days” were both published by Vanity Fair and well worth reading for their content and exquisite prose. 

 

7. Longreads: Best of 2020: All of Our No. 1 Story Picks

Pick of the List: I haven’t read everything on this list, but I check Longread’s weekly top 5 picks every time I write my lists, and browse most stories on them. Of the picks collated here, I have the most vivid memory of reading Teju Cole’s We Can’t Comprehend This Much Sorrow,” which comprises a week of the writer’s observations. I remember the subtitle, that “history’s first draft is almost always wrong — but we still have to try and write it,” and I remember Cole negotiating the paradox of writing because it is your livelihood and the way you understand the world, but also wondering “Why bother? The same incidents, the same references and the same outrages would inevitably be picked over by other writers… I also knew that anything I wrote could soon be — in fact was almost certain to be — contradicted by new developments. But what worried me most was that certain points of emphasis in my writing would later prove to have been misjudged, and that this would somehow reveal that my heart had been in the wrong place all along.”

What’s Missing: Jesmyn Ward’s “On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by a Pandemic” was one of the most moving things I read about grief this year. Ward’s husband died in January of “acute respiratory distress syndrome,” at 33 years of age, just before the pandemic set in on the world, and her grief bleeds onto the page. “Even in a pandemic, even in grief,” writes Ward, “I found myself commanded to amplify the voices of the dead that sing to me, from their boat to my boat, on the sea of time. 

I also love the series HIVE, edited by Danielle A. Jackson and published by Longreads. None of the pieces from the series, which explores “women and the music that has influenced them,” were included on either of the lists of longform journalism I picked.

 

8. Rotten Tomatoes: The Best TV of 2020

Pick of the List: I have not watched a lot of new TV this year. Instead I chose to watch my comfort TV shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, on repeat. I have probably watched Avatar in its entirety four times and LOK upwards of six times (although sometimes I only rewatch the last two seasons). Of the shows I have seen on this list, I probably enjoyed watching season 4 of Netflix’s The Crown the most. 

What’s Missing: I have found a lot of comfort in children’s animated series over the past year, and I would have to say that I was hoping to see the final season of She-Ra on this list. While it isn’t my favorite season of the show, it does a good job of wrapping up the series and giving its characters closure. 

 

9. Rotten Tomatoes: The Best Movies of 2020, Ranked by Tomatometer

Pick of the List: Again, because of my obsession with my aforementioned comfort TV shows and movies—which include Happy Feet, Dreamgirls, Thor: Ragnarok, and the most recent Godzilla series—I didn’t watch a lot of new movies. I did, however, recently watch Soul and it is so heartening! It is one of those kids movies that are for kids but are also really meant for adults. 

What’s Missing: I also watched The Photograph recently and it is so good! I mean, it is a rom-com and doesn’t do anything innovative, but I still enjoyed the movie and it was just easy and fun to watch. The movie also has an amazing soundtrack—it is great for that if nothing else. 

 

10. Make a Website Hub: 40 Of The Weirdest Websites On The Internet 2020

Pick of the List: I’m not a cat person, but clicking the “make it rain” feature on “Cat Bounce” did give me a surprisingly large amount of joy. 

What’s Missing: I honestly don’t spend enough time on random, mostly pointless websites to know what is missing from this. 

 

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