Memes Desktop
Memes Mobile

By Michael Hester + Jack Beckwith

PUBLISHED: JANUARY 9, 2018

In September 2016, a little-known, 13-year old girl named Danielle Bregoli was invited on the Dr. Phil show with her mother. The interview seemed pretty cookie cutter for Dr. Phil -- Danielle was a troubled teenager with a few petty crimes already under her belt. What transpired, however, will live on in Internet infamy for years to come.

At one point during the interview, Dr. Phil made a joke about her manner of speaking. When a number of audience members started snickering, Danielle yelled "catch me outside, how 'bout that!". That exchange -- less than 10 seconds in total -- took the Internet by storm over the coming months. It spawned a remix by DJ Suede the Remix God that actually hit the Billboard Hot 100. Bregoli herself signed a record deal with Atlantic and now has over 12 million Instagram followers. This is 2017 meme culture at its finest.

Using Google search data, we've charted the search interest for 50 memes that had Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit users giggling in 2017. Google indexes its search data relative to peak interest, meaning that the week in which a meme peaked is represented below as 100. Check out the benchmarked data to see how each meme compares to the epic rise of "Cash Me Outside."

Brother, May I Have Some Oats peaked in January .
“Brother, May I Have Some Oats” is a copypasta expression associated with a painting of two pigs, which is commonly circulated on 4chan’s /s4s/ and /r9k/ boards where it is often referred to as “oatposting.”

Trended Data

Benchmarked Data

No meme got the Internet quite as excited as "Cash Me Outside" in 2017, but a few came close. United Airlines' PR nightmare -- in which they forcibly removed a passenger from one of their planes -- produced a number of viral memes. A relative newcomer is "Ben Swolo," a play on a scene from Star Wars: The Last Jedi that features Kylo Ren without a shirt on. Participation in the #BenSwoloChallenge spiked in late December and appears to be rising as of the end of 2017.

Check out the table below to see all 50 memes ranked by popularity in their peak week, relative to "Cash Me Outside."

Meme Peak Search Index

Methodology:

We used Google Trends data to chart the popularity of each meme. We elected to use "peak interest" as a means of ranking the memes, as opposed to aggregate interest over the course of the year. This is for two reasons:

  • Memes that surfaced later in the year would have been unduly penalized. "Ben Swolo" would have finished much lower on our list, even though its peak was higher than all but two other 2017 memes. This is because it emerged in mid-December.
  • Google rounds popularity in a given week to the nearest whole number, so simply summing across weeks would produce an inaccurate total.

Over a 12-month timeframe, Google aggregates the data on a weekly basis by default. In some cases that may mean a meme is penalized relative to others, by virtue of the day of the week in which it caught on (i.e. if a meme went viral on a Friday and became a sensation for several days after, its rise would be spread over two calendar weeks). However, the data generally showed that a memes largest spike was contained to a 24 or 48 hour period.

An important factor dictating our results was the search queries that we attributed to each meme. We used a formulaic search pattern for the most part (i.e. "cash me outside meme") and tried our best to capture all variations of spelling and phrasing. If you'd like to see a complete list of our queries, check out this Google sheet. See this page to learn how Google interprets each search term.

Nerd Notes:

Graphics were created using d3.js. The scroll-driven interactivity was done with Scrollama, a library written by Russell Goldenberg over at The Pudding.

Search data comes from Google Trends' "Explore" tool. You can use it to see the search trajectory of your own queries dating back to 2004.