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11 minutes changes everything.
The summer’s latest meme trend is “Google, 11 Minutes Later,” which takes a screenshot of a Google search, then follows it up with whatever that same Google user would be looking for next. A logical progression is implied, with the searcher frantically running back to Google to deal with the horrible consequences of their first search. In this meme, a lot can happen in 11 minutes.
The format seems to have been pioneered on Reddit’s edgy and controversial r/dankmemes forum. This example, a somewhat offensive joke about incest and abortion, was the first to appear:
The template, which is just two search boxes and the “8:32 PM” and “8:43 PM” timestamps (or sometimes even just five minutes apart), is extremely versatile and easy to work with, which helped it spread fast. At first, posters weren’t sure what to do with it: they dredged up the months-old “why is the FBI here?” meme, which also involved a Google search window, and adapted it to the new format. (The joke is that the FBI would never investigate someone for Googling cheat codes for online games.)
But eventually, the “Google 11 minutes later” meme took on its own tone, covering a number of edgy, politically incorrect, and sometimes racist subjects. There’s Hitler, self-harm, the nuclear weapons used on Japan in World War II, and all the other themes that are par for the course on dankmemes:
As with most memes like this, the best versions are the ones that creatively subvert the original joke. Here’s an example that perfectly exploits the time element of the meme:
And here’s a meta version that questions the meme itself:
The “Google 11 minutes later” meme has versatility and ease of use going for it, but the format is ultimately too visually bland and text-based to last long. It has plenty of capacity to incorporate other memes, but future memes probably won’t refer back to it because it lacks a strong, remixable central character or image.
It’s probably best compared to “Why is the FBI here?” which peaked in February and has seen scant use since. But even “Why is the FBI here?” had a punchline—”Google 11 minutes later” is a harder meme to distill.
Google-based memes can work, though. They just need a character and some visual appeal. The gold standard of the genre is “Ok bye mom,” which stars a kid who races to Google naughty terms as soon as his mom leaves the house.
This meme is just as versatile as “Google 11 minutes later,” but the stock-photo kid has become a recognizable icon in his own right, ready to be transplanted into other memes. And memes that have characters in them provide more remix potential, because any other character can be pasted over it.
In short, the lack of backward compatibility with future memes means “Google 11 minutes later” might not be around 11 minutes from now.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.