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.
how it started how it ended pic.twitter.com/dm0YYg9Z9D
— mel (@vjllanelles) September 23, 2020
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:
How it started: How it ended: pic.twitter.com/ywh2dobB74
— autumn (@Autie_Radig) October 9, 2020
Pretty soon, celebrities and other public figures started getting into the spirt.
How it started: How it's going: pic.twitter.com/8IiIHfXCn0
— Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) October 12, 2020
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.
How it started: How it's going: pic.twitter.com/2VL5RtxNvj
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) October 10, 2020
how it started how it‘s going pic.twitter.com/IqhdYaVZ3V
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) October 7, 2020
They used it to show off fitness results.
How it started How it's going…. pic.twitter.com/YNqaTKyExE
— ???????? ????'???? ???????????????????????? ???????? (@Prettywummex_) October 30, 2020
They used it to make statements about their sexuality.
Happy #NationalComingOutDay ????????✨????
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/wGCzUWJMzA
— Alyson Stoner (@AlysonStoner) October 12, 2020
They used it to promote new projects.
How it How it's
started: going: pic.twitter.com/lXPUcGBhDs
— Giancarlo Esposito (@quiethandfilms) October 29, 2020
Brands started using it to promote themselves, too.
How it started vs. How it’s going… pic.twitter.com/mbMklwGdRS
— Paddington (@paddingtonbear) October 12, 2020
.@KingJames made his NBA debut 17 years ago today:
How it started How it's going pic.twitter.com/upkWu42iEK
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 29, 2020
How it started how it's going pic.twitter.com/wX0kPOprt2
— Xbox FR (@XboxFR) October 7, 2020
And then people started using it to score political points as well.
how it started vs. how it's going pic.twitter.com/eyaPNWbS5x
— Leah Litman (@LeahLitman) October 28, 2020
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.
Mitch McConnell promised to save coal jobs.
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/akMviYMZ3a
— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) October 27, 2020
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.
how it started how it's going pic.twitter.com/DhJXU3yy1f
— Ambooent 1: Music For Scareports (@pixelatedboat) October 30, 2020
How Phase 3 of the reopening started — and how it’s going. pic.twitter.com/H0BqBhLPxh
— Mike Connolly (@MikeConnollyMA) October 30, 2020
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/gANZuAI0At
— Adz (@adnannhussainn) October 29, 2020
Fast Company will update this post if this meme ends up going in a radically new direction from here.