- The internet was filled with viral stories and funny memes this year.
- Among the biggest stories were YouTube influencers like Jake Paul and Lil Tay, and the Egyptian sarcophagus that wasn’t cursed after all.
In some ways, every story is an internet story.
But going viral also has its own nuances. The biggest viral stories and memes of the year are filled with unexpected celebrities like Jake Paul and Mason Ramsey, disastrous wedding stories, and funny memes like “Johny Johny Yes Papa” and “Is this a pigeon?” It also includes object lessons in human folly, like #PlaneBae and TanaCon.
Logan Paul finally went too far with his “suicide forest” video.
He finally stepped too far (by YouTube’s standards, anyway) with a video he uploaded on New Year’s Eve, 2017. It featured him exploring Japan with friends, and ultimately visiting Japan’s Aokigahara “suicide forest,” where he filmed himself discovering a dead body.
YouTube ultimately removed the video, broke off its production deals with Paul, and stripped him of the ability to earn revenue from their advertising tools reserved for top influencers. Paul himself took a break from YouTube but was scorned when he tried to return to the site less than a month later.
Paul remains popular on YouTube, but he’s also moved on to podcasting and other ventures. Since YouTube cut official ties with him, he’s still been somewhat ostracized within the social network’s community.
Teens ate Tide Pods.
In January, the Tide Pod Challenge swept through YouTube and Instagram, with teens trying to top each other by seeing if they could swallow the candy-coloured laundry detergent. It became serious enough that the American Association of Poison Control Centres issued an alert warning people not to do it.
Tide then hired Rob Gronkoswki to star in an advertising campaign urging people not to eat Tide Pods, and YouTube took action to delete videos of people eating Tide Pods from its platform. In November, Tide revealed its latest innovation: detergent boxes that more than slightly resemble boxed wine.
Astrology memes took over Instagram
Using astrology to cope with the chaos and anxiety of everyday life is nothing new. But in 2018, the internet combined its love of all things star sign with its other favourite past time – memes.
A yodeling boy warmed millions of hearts.
The purest viral celebrity this year, without a doubt, is Mason Ramsey. At the mere age of 10, he went viral for yodeling really well in a Walmart, and later made it to “Ellen” and Coachella. What more could you want from the internet?
Lil Tay blew up — and then disappeared.
Lil Tay – whose real name is Claire Hope – became a force to be reckoned with on Instagram this spring. Just 11, she made videos where she swore, hung out with rappers, and showed off expensive cars and houses she supposedly owned.
In the spring she visited Los Angeles and collaborated on videos with figures like Jake Paul. But in May, her Instagram account suddenly went silent. It posted only cryptic messages about her well-being for months, raising more questions about her care to her 2.5 million followers.
In October, INSIDER reported that Hope went back to Vancouver, and is at the center of a private battle between her parents over her future. Until that’s settled, her career is effectively on hold.
Yanny vs. Laurel was the new “dress.”
It’s “laurel,” and the dress is black and blue. Thank you.
YouTubers tried to host their own festivals, failed, and then went viral for failing.
One of the hardest things for an internet celebrity to do is translate their fame into IRL experiences. It takes experienced, organised people to pull off that kind of thing, and they generally rely on established events like VidCon for real-life fan exchanges.
But the YouTube influencer community is filled with obscure power structures, slights, and feuds. Influencer Tana Mongeau didn’t like the YouTube community’s main fan conference, VidCon, so she founded TanaCon, for herself.
Hosted in June, the event was a disaster. Thousands more people than planned showed up, headliners skipped town, and Mongeau didn’t have the resources to fix it. The event was widely compared to the infamous Fyre Festival, and Mongeau shut the whole thing down by its second day.
Less than a month later, Yousef Erakat, also known as FouseyTube, promised a “Coachella-calibre experience,” featuring Drake and Snoop Dogg, for his own event in Los Angeles, called Hate Dies, Love Arrives. Neither artist showed up – nor did any other celebrity – and the whole thing was called off due to a bomb threat.
A woman went viral for a Twitter thread about how two people sitting in front of her on a plane seemed into each other.
This past summer, fashion and beauty blogger Rosey Blair posted a long Twitter thread claiming she’d spent a flight watching two people apparently flirting with each other in the aeroplane seats in front of her.
The minute-by-minute recap went viral. It inspired people to praise the story as proof that love was real, and horrified others by what they viewed as a gross invasion of privacy.
The #PlaneBae story kicked up another notch when Blair suggested that her followers should seek out the true identity of the woman in her story and urge her to come forward – after that woman had already deleted her social media accounts because of harassment and declined journalists’ requests for comment.
Blair ultimately apologised to all involved after a few more days of scrutiny.
Archaeologists in Egypt opened an allegedly cursed sarcophagus.
One of the only good things that happened in 2018 was in July, when archaeologists in Egypt found an extraordinarily well-preserved 2,000-year-old sarcophagus. While many people on the internet wrongly thought it was cursed, antiquities experts opened it anyway and found three skeletons and a bunch of sewage, which is a pretty good haul as far as these things go.
Egyptians also discovered the world’s oldest cheese wheel.
Not long after the sarcophagus discovery, Egyptian researchers found a 3,200-year-old giant hunk of cheese in a tomb. Scientists thought it might be edible, but fear of infectious bacteria kept them away from actually taking a bite.
“Johny Johny Yes Papa” was stuck in everyone’s head for a week.
Sometime in August, a bizarre series of badly animated videos went viral. They featured a boy name Johny, an ice cream cone, his sibling Chiya, a refrigerator, and his father, who insisted on starving them all.
“Johny Johny Yes Papa” turned out to be a video series from the YouTube channel Billion Surprise Toys, based on an obscure nursery rhyme. The Billions Surprise Toys videos were infectious, and there’s a deep rabbit hole of internet history behind them.
Papa John sued Papa John’s.
Speaking of papas and John(n)ys, John Schnatter – also known as Papa John, the founder of the pizza chain – sued the company he founded. After he resigned as chairman following his use of a racist slur in July, Schnatter sought documents he said the company unfairly withheld from him. The lawsuit is still ongoing.
Mark Wahlberg’s bizarre daily schedule baffled the internet.
Celebrities live strange lives. But one of the strangest details we learned was Mark Wahlberg’s daily schedule, which apparently involves waking up at 2:30 a.m. every day, working out twice a day for several hours at a time, and a daily “cryotherapy chamber recovery” session. He also apparently makes time every morning (at 7:30) for a game of golf.
Wahlberg’s schedule launched a meme where people made their own bizarre schedules, which generally weren’t nearly as productive. Wahlberg finally addressed the schedule months later on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” telling Jimmy Fallon that it wasn’t totally accurate.
“I shower for about five minutes, then I drive or pick up the kids, drop them off, go to the golf course,” he said. “There’s other things happening between six to 7:30.”
The “flaunt your wealth” challenge encouraged people to pose as if their expensive belongings had carelessly fallen out of their handbags.
Originating on Weibo, the “flaunt your wealth” challenge went viral on Instagram in October. It featured people elaborately posing as if they’d fallen down and all of their bag’s contents – generally luxury goods – were revealed for the world to see. It was a self-aware way of showing off and celebrating consumerism, which made it perfect for Instagram influencers.
Shane Dawson’s documentary about Jake Paul sparked a conversation about mental health.
Logan Paul’s little brother, Jake Paul, has his own share of internet infamy. He was the subject of a YouTube docuseries from Shane Dawson, another powerful YouTuber, who probed his background to try to find out what makes him tick.
To do that, Dawson employed horror movie-like editing and music tropes while exploring mental health. Dawson’s approach was widely criticised, and led to a conversation among his fans about how to fairly and sensitively depict people who may be struggling with mental health issues.
Paul himself had an eventful year on his own terms, too. Like his brother, he was in a high-profile boxing match with another YouTuber. He also allegedly trashed a house he rented,got kicked out of a theme park, feuded with a legendary Vine creator, and toured the country with a 4-year-old dubbed “Mini Jake Paul.”
Jacob Wohl tried to take down the Mueller investigation.
Until October, 21-year-old Jacob Wohl was most famous for being the guy who constantly replied to all of President Donald Trump’s tweets with over-the-top praise.
That changed this year when Wohl said he knew a woman who had been sexually assaulted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and swore to bring her story to light. The idea that someone like Wohl was linked to such serious charges was widely mocked.
At a press conference Wohl hosted, no woman materialised, and the sexual assault allegations have never been substantiated.
Soap-cutting videos are the visual version of ASMR.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos are meant to invoke a sense of pleasure for people who listen to them. For some, soap-cutting offers a visual version of ASMR’s pleasures.
There was a really big cow.
Knickers, a cow living in Australia, is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 3,086 pounds, which makes him as tall as Michael Jordan and many times more heavy.
A local Australian news station posted photos of Knickers towering over all the other cows at his farm, and people naturally went wild over it.
People tried to find their doppelgänger in classical art using Google Arts & Culture app.
Google Arts & Culture launched a feature on its virtual museum app that matches selfies with paintings in museums all over the world – and the internet was excited about it. People posted their results all over social media, showing off their lookalikes. At times, their doppelgängers were scarily accurate, and other times they were laughable.
This year’s Super Bowl brought another kid viral fame after he looked disinterested during the halftime show.
From Katy Perry’s left shark to Lady Gaga’s big jump, every Super Bowl has a standout moment that the internet turns into a loveable meme. But this year’s viral moment didn’t come from any big stars. Instead, it was a young fan in the audience that caught the internet’s attention.
The camera hilariously caught 13-year-old Ryan McKenna staring at his phone disinterestedly as Justin Timberlake performed his halftime show right beside him. The internet instantly created memes of the seemingly bored teen, coming up with hilarious things he could’ve been Googling during the show.
But McKenna told TODAY that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He was actually very excited to see Justin Timberlake but was just having trouble with his phone when he tried to snap a selfie with the singer.
“I’m a huge Justin Timberlake fan, and that was my favourite song – ‘Can’t Stop [the] Feeling’ – so I was just so excited that he was right there playing that song,” McKenna told the morning show.
The internet was challenged yet again when an optical illusion of two people hugging went viral.
In May, a photo of two people hugging was posted on Twitter. At first glance, it looks like a man is bent over, hugging a woman who is sitting down at her desk. But the closer you examine the picture, the stranger it gets. It starts to appear as if the man is wearing white skinny jeans and black heels, and the internet became divided on who is actually wearing the heels. Eventually, people explained and demonstrated how the girl is actually the one bending over and hugging the man sitting at his desk.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was an inspiration for many memes and jokes.
When Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in London in May, the entire world was watching, especially the internet. There were quite a few meme-able moments from the wedding that have gone viral. One of the most memorable moments that has been turned into a meme is a picture of Meghan lovingly looking up at Harry. It started with someone tweeting, “Do you look at your man like this?” But in typical internet fashion, people responded with jokes, saying they look adoringly at “bread” and the “Taco Bell menu at 2 a.m.”
Roseanne’s infamous tweet that ended her career also went viral this year.
It was the tweet read around the world. In June, Roseanne Barr tweeted about President Obama’s former White House official Valerie Jarrett, comparing her to an ape. Within hours, everyone online was talking about it and ABC canceled her highly successful remake “Roseanne.”
Many celebrities and co-stars turned to social media too to express their outrage at Roseanne’s language. Since the tweet, Roseanne has blamed the tweet on Ambien and bizarrely tried to explain that it was actually a way to defend Israel.
The internet was swamped with memes after Elon Musk was filmed smoking marijuana.
It’s been a tumultuous year for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but the mainstream internet caught wind of his antics in October when he was filmed smoking weed during an interview with comedian Joe Rogan. Shortly after, Musk tweeted, “Send me ur dankest memes” and suddenly the internet was flooded with hilarious memes of musk getting high.
A man at one of President Trump’s rallies went viral for his hilarious facial expressions.
In September, President Trump went to Billings, Montana, for a campaign rally, but he wasn’t the only one who made headlines that day. An unidentified man who was seated behind the president was in the spotlight after people noticed he had some unusual and rather hilarious facial expressions.
As Trump talked about healthcare policy, you can see the man raise his eyebrows then burrow them in confusion. When Trump talked about how the country is “booming” and “soaring,” the man just lets out a big laugh. Eventually, a woman comes over to speak to the man and then takes his spot, but not before the internet took the expressive man under its wing, creating hilarious memes.
In another viral challenge, people pranked their parents by asking how long a turkey needs to be cooked in a microwave.
This Thanksgiving, people pranked their parents and grandparents by asking them how long it takes to cook a 25-pound turkey in a microwave. Since a 25-pound turkey is huge and shouldn’t be cooked in a microwave, parents typically panicked. People posted the hilarious responses on social media.
One mum texted back, “Wrap it in foil. Put in microwave. Then go buy a pre-cooked one so you can feed the fire department, while another one wrote, “Doesn’t even matter. We don’t eat turkey and pilgrims are murderers.”
INSIDER later learned that you actually can cook a turkey in the microwave if it’s on the smaller side and completely defrosted.
The Philadelphia Flyers introduced a new mascot, Gritty, and the bizarre creature instantly went viral.
In September, the Philadelphia Flyers introduced the world to its new mascot: Gritty. It’s unclear what Gritty is exactly. He seems to be a cross between a bear, a sloth, and something out of nightmares. While some find him to be adorable, others find him simply terrifying.
In the announcement, the Flyers wrote that Gritty is “loyal but mischievous” and “talented but feisty, a fierce competitor, known for his agility given his size.”
The internet was baffled after a superintendent was allegedly caught pooping on a high school track field.
A story out of New Jersey went viral in May for its sheer weirdness. The story first broke when students at Holmdel High School found human poop near the track field almost every day, but it really picked up steam when police caught the school’s superintendent Thomas Tramglini in the act and arrested him as the culprit. Police charged him with lewdness, littering, and defecating in public.
At this trial, Tramglini pleaded guilty but said he only pooped on the field once. His attorney explained that Tramglini had a medical issue while running and had no where else to go at the time.
Another YouTube star filmed a dead body in Japan’s “suicide forest.”
The year ended in the same unusual place it began: Japan’s “suicide forest.” Instead of learning from Logan Paul’s mistakes, another YouTube star closed out the year by posting a video of a dead body in Aokigahara forest.
Qorygore, who’s a popular gaming streamer and rapper in Indonesia, went there this December to follow in Logan Paul’s footsteps.
“I went all the way to Japan. This is Logan Paul 2.0,”he said in the video according to The Daily Dot.
YouTube removed the video, but Qorygore has defended his actions in subsequent videos.
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