‘How it started vs. how it’s going’ has become the all-purpose meme of 2020

By Joe Berkowitz

October 30, 2020

It may have started one way, but the hottest Twitter meme of 2020 has now gone in an entirely different direction.

Several directions, actually.

Although it originated as a frivolous framework for celebrating one’s romantic partner, the “how it started vs. how it’s going” meme quickly morphed into something far more versatile and useful. It is now a popular tool for making political and social commentary across a broad range of topics, particularly on Twitter.

The meme started in late September in a cutesy relationship-goals type post from a Twitterer who goes by @vjllanelles.

The meme soon spread the way these things always do. A lot of similar “before and after” memes have taken off on Twitter before. Hell, several of them went viral just this year. But even in its earliest incarnation, the “how it started” meme seemed to inspire more fun twists than the usual meme—like this portrait of a breakup:

Pretty soon, celebrities and other public figures started getting into the spirt.

And then a funny thing happened. People started moving away from relationships and exploring other ways to use this construction.

They used it to show off career achievements.

They used it to show off fitness results.

They used it to make statements about their sexuality.

They used it to promote new projects.

Brands started using it to promote themselves, too.

And then people started using it to score political points as well.

It was a handy format for shading someone, picking up where last summer’s “This you?” meme, in which users confront someone with receipts of their hypocrisy, left off.

Of course, inevitably, the most prominent meme of 2020 is also a way to comment on the most prominent topic of the 21st century: COVID-19.