In 2012, America was halfway through President Obama’s time in office. The first Avengers movie came out, and Hunger Games premiered. Hope was high, and Reddit—the Web’s “front page”—was where anyone with a cute pet could get thousands of upvotes. Cats were the most popular, but occasionally a dog or two would slip in. Then, in September of that year, Bryan Bundesen posted a picture of his sister Tabatha’s cat, Tardar Sauce, an 11-month old tabby with feline dwarfism that perpetually looked annoyed. The Internet was enraptured with Grumpy Cat.
That’s how life on social media used to be. The biggest memeswere funny looking cats like Tardar and Lil Bub, or Mohawk Guy, and “Call Me Maybe.” Memes weren’t yet weapons of mass disruption (at least not on the scale that they came to be in 2016) and we still knew what a troll was. Now, Grumpy Cat is dead—the feline’s owners announced her passing today on Twitter—and with her goes an era in which the Internet was more a place of joy than hate, uplift rather than harassment.
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