We’re approaching almost a full year of pandemic-induced isolation. Zoom happy hours and other virtual gatherings have been a sorry replacement for actual human interaction, and try as you might to approximate a social life online, let’s face it: You probably miss your bestie. Instead of lamenting the loss of the one person who you’ve previously been able to (physically) lean on in times of trouble, the internet has presented a new solution: What if everyone is your bestie now?

Like most trends these days, I first noticed the proliferation of the term “bestie” on TikTok. For me, it frequently appeared in text-to-speech videos that often narrated interactions between cats (this should give you an idea of what my For You page looks like). But the term went more mainstream viral thanks to user @tiktoshh, whose frequent use of the term spawned the popular sounds “bestie vibes only” and “bestie I’m afraid to ask you this,” which have each been used in videos tens of thousands of times.

Obviously, the term “bestie” wasn’t invented in January. I don’t have access to the Oxford English Dictionary, so I turned to the next best thing: Urban Dictionary. The term was first entered into the crowd-sourced slang lexicon in 2010. 

“One who is always by your side, who never ditches you, and who would take a bullet for you,” the definition reads.

It also resurfaced in 2019 thanks to Bhad Bhabie and Kodak Black.

But in 2021, thanks in large part to @tiktossh, it officially entered the colloquial meme discourse. For instance, the new Gen-Z app Hive almost never goes a tweet without using the term to refer to its user base.

YouTuber Adam McIntyre frequently uses the term in reference to his followers.

Then there are the regular Twitter memes that have incorporated it.

Just today it appeared in passing on Reddit.

There are many possible reasons why this term has recently found such success. It’s gender neutral, making it a much more inclusive replacement for previous catchall terms like “guys.” It was also probably helped by the popularity of TikTok’s “two pretty best friends” meme. But mostly, it comes during a time when individual support systems and relationships are pretty much the only thing propping us up through a worldwide crisis. I know I’m gonna reach for as many besties as possible. My cat is my bestie. My phone is my bestie. You, reading this, are my bestie, too.