Barely a day goes by without the world, in its collective online hysteria, discovering an amusing video, article or image and then sharing it, ad nauseam, via a series of rehashes that steadily dwindle in quality.
In doing so we participate in a global version of all those times one of your mates tripped over on the street or showed up at the pub in a funny hat and everyone took the mick for hours on end, until the jokes ran out and all was forgotten.
'Going viral', they call it. And by any standard since, well, 2012, 2013 was a vintage year.
Since we're in the month of nostalgia, allow us to jog your memory of a few viral hits you've probably forgotten about from the past 12 months. We'd encourage you to share them, but you've done that already.
Kanye’s latest album Yeezus might have polarized fans, but the rapper’s reluctance to be uncontroversial always makes for entertaining interviews.
And when one features a disclaimer about containing ‘the strongest possible language’, you know it’s primed to spread across the Internet like a particularly violent fire in a timber yard.
From straightforward answers that veer off into vapid hyperbole to offering a surprising amount of clarity when it comes to love, success and, er, what to wear to the beach, Kanye managed to be captivating and completely frustrating in equal measure.
Just don’t call it a rant; according to Kanye, his outpourings of cultural significance are to be known as ‘motivational speeches”. Glad that’s settled.
In order to tackle the misconception that women entering beauty pageants are too focused on their looks and not focused enough on their intelligence, a typical pageant involves the finalists being invited to answer a question on a purely random topic.
This year, Marissa Powell, representing Utah, was posed this question: "A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?"
The answer may surprise you. Mainly because it consists of shallow gasps for air between phrases like ‘create education better’ and ‘we are continuing to strive to figure out how to create jobs’.
The internet duly rejoiced at her inability to offer of solution to centuries of systematic patriarchy and shared the clip millions of times over. Well done everyone.
Miley Cyrus spent most of 2013 trading in her reputation as a doe-eyed Disney starlet for something edgier, all while taking over tongue-brandishing duties from Gene Simmons.
Her performances in award shows and music videos were so prominent on social media that she is almost single-handedly responsible for the word ‘twerk’ entering the Oxford Dictionary of English this year.
One such incident occurred at the Video Music Awards, when Miley twerked on stage with Robin Thicke as he sang his ode to not taking no for an answer, the worryingly catchy (and just plain worrying) 'Blurred Lines'.
Elsewhere, Miley’s single ‘Wrecking Ball’ broke records – it was the fastest video ever to reach 100 million views, and has now been seen nearly 380 million times. In time-honoured pop phenomenon tradition, most of those views came from people who profess on a daily basis to hate her.
Trying to explain what the Harlem Shake is using logic and common sense completely ignores why things on the internet go viral on the first place – because they’re weird, confusing and funny. But here goes.
The Harlem Shake is the name of a song by 24 year-old producer Baauer. Although his song was released in 2012, after it appeared in a video by an Australian comedy troupe thrusting their crotches in costumes, it quickly went to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 this year.
The rules are simple; for the first fifteen seconds of the song one person dances while aloof and subdued. Then, when the base drops, everyone goes completely nuts, preferably wearing something ludicrous.
The dance is absolutely nothing to do with the original dance from the eighties (which orginated in Harlem), and the Baauer song is named so only because it samples a lyric from another song. Confused? You should be, but don’t worry. 2014’s dance craze is just around the corner.
Newcastle and Sunderland matches are typically far from polite, but this year football violence took on a whole new level after a man was jailed for punching a horse.
After Newcastle lost to Sunderland in April, police had to be called in to help calm disruptive fans. Barry Rogerson, 45, when confronted by a policeman on his trusty steed, proceeded to box the animal across the face before being tackled to the ground.
The video footage of Barry went viral and inspired much meme action (and the admittedly brilliant name 'Wor Horse'), before Barry was sentenced to twelve months in jail and a six year ban from going to football grounds in October.
Thankfully there was a happy ending – Bud the police horse is said to have made a full recovery.
When someone pointed out that the yell of some goats sounded remarkably like a person screaming, the internet threw up its hands in celebration.
A supercut of goats wailing as if they’ve stood on a rusty nail and then dipped the wound in vinegar is entertaining enough, but then people started inserting clips of the goat’s screams into popular songs.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how Livin On A Prayer (Goat Edition) was born.
There’s nothing quite as soul-sapping as watching companies with big budgets and vague ideas try to ‘go viral’ and ‘boost brand awareness’, but despite the odds, now and then, one of them manages it.
In March this year 3 Mobile launched a video involving a Shetland pony moonwalking across some cliffs to the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’.
The video was so popular that the Fleetwood Mac song went back in to the Official Singles Chart at a respectable Number 4, although there’s no word whether it caused people to cancel their O2 contracts and switch to 3 Mobile.
It’s not controversial to point out that Ryan Gosling’s popularity on the Internet is at odds with his actual competency as an actor, but everyone is in agreement that he has something of a cult following.
Originating on blink-and-you’ll-miss-it video platform Vine, the videos that went viral feature Gosling in some of his more emotional scenes while a spoonful of cereal slowly inches towards his face.
A compilation of all the clips got 3.5 million views in 3 months, and spawned a number of successors including Justin Bieber Won’t Eat His Cereal and Bradd Pitt Won’t Eat His Cereal. Hardly original, but this is the internet we're talking about.
What was intially celebrated as a triumph against rude strangers everywhere, the reality of this end-of-year viral was that it was all made up.
Elan Gale, a TV producer, started tweeting about a woman at the airport who was livid that their flight was cancelled, disrupting their Thanksgiving plans.
Elan goes to the lady's seat on the plane and gives her a glass of wine, with a passive-aggressive note. She reads and responds. He reads and responds. Eventually he tells her to ‘Eat my dick’ and she slaps him.
The whole thing built enough traction for the columnists of the world to pen think-pieces and articles about the whole thing. One opined that maybe she wanted to get back to see her family because she had cancer, while another pointed out the anti-feminist implications of telling someone to – well, you know.
After gaining 170,000 followers on Twitter for his efforts, Elan came clean – he’d made the whole thing up to pass the time, leaving just about everyone feeling dirty, cheated and more than a little exhausted with the entire internet.
If twerking, goats, Twitter hoaxes and a man punching a horse make you feel like the world became a soulless place in 2013, worry not.
The last video on our list is a geniune heart-warmer, and the only 2013 viral we'd happily welcome back.
Commander Chris Hadfield had already gained a huge following for his video blogs he takes while floating above the Earth (such as ‘what happens when you try to cry in space?’).
But in May, Chris uploaded a video of him performing David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ from 240 miles high.
It got a million views in 12 hours, and even got a tweet from Bowie himself – “Hallo Spaceboy” – recalling a song from his album Outside.
Proof that space travel (and Bowie) will never be as cool as they were in 2013.