GIFs are everywhere these day. They encompass entire cultural moments, and can be beckoned on command on mobile devices, work chats, and social media apps. And it makes sense—why use words when you can send a split-second video that captures your feelings and loops them into oblivion? Imagine how much peace could be had if all communications were so straightforward and animated.
Of course, the beauty of these tiny tech marvels is that they can feel personal and also appeal to the masses. In that spirit, Popular Science proudly presents its favorite crowd-approved GIFs of 2019.
Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson became a viral sensation, but perhaps the most famous sketch is the “Focus Group,” featuring character actor Ruben Rabasa. In the short but hilarious segment, he suggests a car with “a good steering wheel that doesn’t fly off your hand while you’re driving,” makes fun of another group member, Paul, and stands by his ideas even as others vehemently oppose them. And while all of those were meme-able in their own right, Rabasa dabbing was the moment that stood out the most.
We know that this isn’t technically Yoda (yet), but we’re calling it Baby Yoda anyway. The character first appeared in the second episode of Disney+’s original Star Wars show The Mandalorian, and the internet instantly fell in love. Here, The Child, as it’s called in the show, sips from a cup—an innocent gesture that’s made it a mmm-hmm icon across the galaxy.
Actress Keke Palmer inspired a new meme while taking a lie detector test for Vanity Fair. During the exam, she couldn’t recognize former vice president Dick Cheney and said, “sorry to this man.” The quote quickly went viral, inspiring a new, evergreen meme.
A Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” gained incredible popularity this fall. Though millions of people said they would attempt the raid, the actual attempt drew fewer people than music festivals such as Alienstock happening at the same time. In this GIF, a man runs in the style of manga series Naruto behind a reporter.
This year saw its own share of internet challenges, including “the bottle cap challenge,” where people tried removing a cap screwed onto a bottle with a roundhouse kick. Singer Mariah Carey put her own spin on the endeavor, singing a high note and watching the cap fly away. Unfortunately for Carey, the trick was quickly debunked.
Everyone’s felt the range of emotions that comes with an internal dilemma—but how well have you seen it? Fortunately, 22-year-old Brittany Tomlinson filmed herself tasting kombucha for the first time on short-form video platform TikTok, expressing the very faces we all know we make as we journey through indecisiveness. The back-and-forth reaction went viral and Tomlinson became known as the “kombucha girl” meme.
On the YouTube Show “Hot Ones,” celebrities are interviewed as they eat progressively spicier chicken wings. During his interview, actor Paul Rudd combined all of the hot sauces into one mega-sauce. As he flexes his chemistry skills, he reflects innocently with host Sean Evans, saying, “Hey, look at us…” Sometimes an optimistic quote is all it takes to trigger a sensation.
Marie Kondo and her organization movement, aptly labeled the KonMar method, kept popping up after the release of her Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. To inspire people to let go of clutter in their homes, Kondo asked if individual items “sparked joy.” The catchphrase took off, and people around the world began using it to describe things and experiences that brought they total satisfaction.
Earlier this year, Popular Science articles editor Rachel Feltman got the inside scoop on how we wipe our poop after visiting Charmin’s factory in Cincinnati, Ohio. She learned some genuinely remarkable facts there, and the corresponding video inspired this incredible GIF.
We’ve all got that sassy friend or coworker who’s mastered the eye roll. Ours is editor Jess Boddy, who showed off her skills while discussing science fiction predictions that came true. Look out for her in PopSci videos in 2020; she’s promised us to GIFt us more of these moments.