(The Root) — From his Jay-Z-inspired shoulder-dust-off to his McKayla Maroney "not impressed" pose, Barack Obama has shown a remarkable knack for going viral. While most of the highly shareable images and video of the president are generated by fans and critics, he has also carefully cultivated online buzz through appearances including his surprise "Slow Jam the News" skit on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and his "Ask Me Anything Q&A" on Reddit.
The end result — whether it's due to enthusiasm for his historic presidency, or simply the way the timing has coincided with the popularity of social networking — is that he's our first "meme" president. Here are 12 moments that, along with the power of the Internet, have helped earn him that title.
Pete Souza/The White House
Maroney was none too happy when she failed to win the gold for her vault performance in this summer's Olympic Games, and it showed all over her face. The "not impressed" expression is one that the president would have been well within his rights to make in response to some of his more outrageous critics over the years. So when he put on his best scowl while posing for a photo with the teen gymnast ("I do that face at least once a day," he reportedly told her), the Internet awarded the image a medal for humor. The photo, as Maroney put it, ended up "everywhere."
In the final 24 hours of President Obama's re-election campaign, Jay-Z delighted supporters at an Ohio rally with a remix of his hit single "99 Problems." "If you're havin' world problems, I feel bad for you son/I got 99 problems, but Mitt ain't one," he rapped. Of course, those lyrics would be even more entertaining coming from the president himself, so it wasn't long before a highly shareable (and explicit) remix, starring Obama, made its way to YouTube.
Pete Souza/White House
The most shared picture in the history of Twitter and most "Liked" photo ever shared on Facebook was taken by a campaign photographer back in August, and chosen on a whim by a young campaign staffer to post at 11:15 on election night, just as the world learned that President Obama would win a second term. The accompanying text was simple: "Four more years." Was it the closed eyes? The warm embrace? The sense of equality? There are plenty of theories, but we're guessing that any picture of the first couple shared at that particular celebratory moment would have been just about as viral.
Forbes called it a "made for social media attack line," and if that's what it was, it worked. President Obama first coined the phrase at a Virginia campaign rally as shorthand for what he said were Mitt Romney's inconsistent positions. Obama's campaign didn't waste any time capitalizing on the term with an "official" definition in a press release ("Romnesia [Rom-nee-zhuh] Noun — a condition affecting Mitt Romney, who has shifted his positions from 'severely conservative' to 'severely kidding' — conveniently forgetting the conservative promises he's made over the past six years that he's been running for president"). And Twitter took it from there. Perhaps thanks in part to all the #Romnesia hashtags, voters didn't forget this criticism of the Republican candidate.
Can images go viral in hard copy? If so, this one did it. Created by Shepard Fairey, the red, white and blue artwork instantly came to symbolize Barack Obama's presidential campaign. One observer declared that it "acquired the kind of instant recognition of Jim Fitzpatrick's Che Guevara poster, and is surely set to grace T-shirts, coffee mugs and the walls of student bedrooms in the years to come."
President Obama made no secret about his motivation for taking to Reddit, the self-proclaimed "front page of the Internet," for one of its signature "Ask Me Anything" Q&A sessions. "I'm checking in because polls will start closing in this election in just a few hours, and I need you to vote," he said. In 30 minutes the POTUS answered hundreds of questions, and the surge in traffic temporarily locked out users. As a result, the online campaign stop got some unexpected publicity when an image of the president in front of the computer as he conducted the chat got the meme treatment. The text: "My AMA brought down Reddit. Deal with it!"
The president finished this number with an enthusiastic, "Oh yeah," which is probably also what he said about the chance to pitch his plan for Stafford Loan interest rates to a late-night audience when he appeared in Jimmy Fallon's signature segment. Supporters couldn't wait to share it. Maybe all his speeches should be backed up by the Roots?
Via the Daily Beast
After University of Colorado student Madalyn Starkey Instagrammed a picture of herself with President Obama at the Sink dive bar, others were just as excited to share the image of the star-struck supporter — and combine it with different backdrops — as she was to pose with the president (whom she reportedly told, "You smell good").
Pete Souza/The White House
The photo of Jacob Philadelphia spoke at least 1,000 words about the psychological and emotional impact of having an African-American president, and the resonance of that message helped it go viral. When a New York Times piece recounted the story behind the image (the little boy told Obama, "I want to know if my hair is just like yours"), it quickly became the publication's most emailed article.
The celebrations when the president announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan crossed the political aisle, but they were followed by some much snarkier — and more viral — takes on the victory. The creators of this image couldn't miss the chance to stick it to Birthers, who were questioning the president's very status as an American.
An image overlaid with a little humor about "Uncle Joe's" longtime proclivity for verbal slipups was popular among those familiar with the vice president's infamous and seemingly unpredictable gaffes — from "clean and articulate" all the way to "This is a big f—king deal!"
Then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama gave a nod to Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" (and his own coolness) at a rally. That was quickly combined with the popular song for an instant viral video. The theme was revived during the 2012 campaign in an Instagram photo from a $40,000-per-head bash that the hip-hop mogul and Beyoncé hosted. "Got some dirt on my shoulder, will you brush it off for me?" read the caption.
Why wouldn't he? He has access to the Internet, after all.