On the internet, December is the month where we make lists and rankings for things that happened over the course of the year, then argue over who got left out and why one thing was placed above another. While this tradition can grueling at times, it helps distract us in the northern hemisphere from the long nights, dreary cold, and holiday ennui that threaten to make us truly evaluate our lot.
Today's wintry endorphin hit comes from Twitter (Android, iOS), who have recapped the highlights of 2018 as they occurred on Twitter itself. And in typical fashion, its overview is heavy on hashtags, inside jokes, and trends that may be completely opaque to folks who don't use this social network on a daily basis.
For example, the most retweeted tweet of 2018 comes from YouTuber Elrubius, who says the phrase "LIMONADA 2.0" with a Moyai emoji at the end. For those of you who don't follow Elrubius on YouTube, this message is probably a complete mystery. It turns out that Elrubius used this tweet as part of a contest. If you retweeted it, you were entered into the contest.
The story behind the Moyai emoji itself is a rabbit hole of capricious irony, and there may not actually be anything to learn at the end. But that's internet memes for you; sometimes the point is that there is no point, and that's the joke. The emoji of choice might easily have been a spork, a can of beer, or a glazed donut -- whatever was trending at the time, even if no one knew why. Especially if no one knew why. What matters is that it becomes a talisman, and holding it up before your audience is a signal of your belonging.
Meanwhile, K-Pop group BTS scored a major hit with a GIF of one of them dancing to a song by Drake called "In My Feelings." BTS's GIF was recorded by a person in the back seat of a slowly moving vehicle with the door open, because this is the internet. But BTS is huge, with over 17 million followers on Twitter, so the clip spread like wildfire, eventually reaching Drake, who ended up featuring the GIF's signature dance moves in the music video for his song.
Plot twist: This meme actually started on Instagram with a user named theshiggyshow, whose Shiggy Dance went explosively viral when BTS did its version of his performance. The end result for BTS was the most liked tweet of 2018. It's like a microblogging circle of life.
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Perhaps the best example of the Twitter community's appetite for finding humor in the noise comes from Lady Gaga, whose tweet of a seemingly random string of letters and numbers in 2012 has sustained a popularity of epic proportions; it was the third-most popular tweet of 2018.
Yep, six years later, a message indistinguishable from a cat walking across your keyboard is still more visible than anything that most of us have ever done on the Internet. Given that Twitter is routinely accused of catering to microscopic attention spans and simplistic statements, Lady Gaga's tweet has a kind of fascinating inertia, even if there's nothing to take away from the tweet itself.
Though it's not clear if the tweet's continued popularity is a measure of Twitter's sense of humor that elevates randomness as an crucial element of comedy, or an unintentional meta-criticism of the platform's relatively limited communication bandwidth. We'll see where keyboard cats stand on the issue a year from now.
- Twitter called out the biggest tweets of the year, in a series of tweets. If you're not a card-carrying member of Twitteronia, there may have been an element of mystery, since the platform didn't provide any context.
- In some cases, the point may be that there is no context, so good luck explaining this stuff to your grandparents. And in a couple generations, your grandchildren.
- Twitter now lets you help ferret out fake accounts
- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: "We have definitely been utilized to manipulate people"
- Twitter CEO tells Congress the social network may start exposing fake users with public badges
- Twitter shuts down fake Putin account with over 1M followers (CNET)
- BeatStars discloses security breach in Twitter live stream (ZDNet)
- Here's the true cost of social media (TechRepublic)