A study about internet fads suggests that, far from being here-today, gone-tomorrow flashes, memes have serious staying power. Viral videos, on the other hand, tend to fade quickly despite racking up billions of views.
The study, hosted by Australian gift shop Yellow Octopus, tracked internet fads based on their scores in Google Trends — which indicates, roughly, how many times they’re searched for. It also examined fad items, like the selfie stick, and apps like Flappy Bird.
While viral video popularity could be comfortably measured in months, even the best of them couldn’t compare with the staying power of memes. The average viral video lived for about four-and-a-half months, while memes stuck around an average of two years.
The most long-lived meme, by far, was Pedobear, a 4chan interpretation of a Japanese cartoon. According to the study, Pedobear enjoys spikes of search popularity regularly over three years. He’s closely followed by Futurama’s “Not Sure If” Fry squint meme and Xzibit’s “Yo Dawg” face.
The study’s authors contend the main reason videos didn’t last as long as memes is because videos are static. You can only watch Rick Astley sing about how he’s never gonna give you up so many times. Memes, on the other hand, “can be endlessly adapted to refer to a range of situations … there’s no shortage of things for Grumpy Cat to frown about.”