Carrying a Chihuahua almost became a fad thanks to Paris Hilton. PETA must have had a few things to say about that. From beatnik in the time past to vampire movies now, it’s difficult to gauge just what will catch the popular imagination next. One never knows with fads. Thankfully some fads like Paris Hilton and her antics go away (but in come the Kardashian and their ‘reality TV’), while some stay on and become a part of our culture…like miniskirts and music videos.
Poodle skirts could become a fad in the 60’s when there was no Internet. Today, the World Wide Web helps a fad go ballistic within a blink of an eye. We capture it on smartphones and YouTube videos, and wild memes spread the fire.
Here’s taking a look at 10 top Internet fads that took the world by storm. Some briefly; some for a few years more.
Star Wars Kid
Admit it. We have all wanted to do it or have done it behind closed doors. I have also broken a couple of lampshades in the process. So, what makes the Canadian boy Ghyslain Raza so special? Well, he broke more than lampshades in his one minute 48 seconds of fame. The viral video of a kid wielding a golf ball retriever and imitating the moves of Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode 1 and fighting imaginary sentries went ballistic on the Internet. It was originally recorded on video cassette tape and discovered by three friends who posted it on Kazaa, a P2P file-sharing network, on April 14th, 2003.
Read this interesting article on the significance of the video.
Hot or Not
It was preceded and succeeded by similar websites like RateMyFace.com and many imitators later on too – Facebook included (FaceMash). But the site strangely endured and became a raging success for a while. Today, you might call it a ‘time-waster’ site where you spend five minutes rating one photo over another across a one-dimensional attractiveness scale. It evolved into a dating and a match-making site. Today it is owned by Badoo, the U.K. based dating site which has given it a new lease of life. Hot or Not is a social network now where you can create a profile, upload photos and videos, and chat with other members.
Read this article from 2004 published by The Harvard Crimson where Mark Zuckerberg talks about starting Facebook inspired by Hot or Not.
What can you say when a website is ranked No.2 in the top Internet fads (CNET) and also among the Top 25 worst websites (PC World). That’s a sure shot sign that it’s a craze that’s going to hold our attention briefly. Mahir Ça?r?’s name entered the Internet Hall of Fame when his picture-laden personal homepage exclaimed enthusiastically – WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE !!!!!!!!! I KISS YOU !!!!!
It became a global joke and we laughed at it even if we didn’t have a sense of humor. Today, you might exclaim, “God! Oh God! Why!” Even God doesn’t have the answer to this one except that it probably reflects our love for the inane. The screenshot above is from the mirror website.
Here’s an article from back then on Wired.com.
I can bet a pretty penny that you had the Dancing Baby (Baby Cha-Cha) as a screensaver while growing up around the late 1990’s. I know I did. I am not sure but it could be available as a mobile screensaver even now. I don’t think it was meant to be a fad in the first place as it was a seriously worked on example of 3D rendered animation to demo the Kinetix Character Studio. The animation of a baby dancing while strumming an air guitar to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” caught on fast. From a viral hit it became more mainstream when it landed a “guest” appearance on Ally McBeal (the Golden Globe winning Fox sitcom). Baby dancing has never been the same again.
Here’s the original home of the Dancing Baby.
CreepyPasta is one fad that endures to this day. If you have tried your hand at creative scare stories, you definitely should have come across this form of online storytelling. Some might call it cheesy horror, but that doesn’t explain its popularity. Try out this story at CreepyPasta.com for a taste of the paranormal. KnowYourMeme has a pretty detailed account on CreepyPasta. And as they say, it probably had its beginnings in chain letters. I know I received a few back in the good old dial-up days. A few writers I know have used CreepyPasta as writing prompts for more detailed fiction.
Here’s the CreepyPasta Wiki, one of the more authoritative sources on it.
Bill Gates Email Beta Test
I am not sure whether I should call this a fad or an annoyance. But I wish it was a hoax that had come true. But the truth is that such emails from “Bill Gates” was pretty much obligatory in our inboxes even a few years ago. I haven’t received one in a while, so I am guessing that spam filters have caught up. Of course, it has had a rebirth in various forms even as Bill Gates continues to give away his money in other ways. The hoax started in 1997 and was actually a harmless prank by Iowa State student Bryan Mack who meant it for a lone friend. Very soon it ballooned into a massive email hoax in all our inboxes.
Here’s an article by Jonathan Keats on Wired who went into the origins of the email. He makes a very valid statement –
Successful hoaxes have always preyed on our tendency to imagine the future through the lens of our own hopes and worries.
We brought the cat home here at MakeUseOf.com (Read: Add Nyan Cat To Your Progress Bars, Because It’s Awesome) Nyan Cat started life as a YouTube video of an animated cat with a rainbow trail. Of course, the Japanese pop-song could annoy or amuse you at the same time. The video was at Number 5 on YouTube’s list of most watched videos for 2011. It spawned ringtones, wallpapers, T-Shirts, games, and other cross-platform apps (like the article link above), and of course a Facebook Group.
The cat is home at Nyan.cat.
LOLcat is an Internet meme that took off and is flying to this day. It is quite simply a picture of a cat with a humorous dialog. The text has various versions but basically it is grammatically wrong and meant to communicate something in an offbeat way. So, now it has got its own “language” – lolspeak. Oh! If you are yet to figure out what LOLcat stands for, then you aren’t from this generation. It is a combo of “laugh out loud” and the word “cat”. It quite possibly predates the Internet era (early 20th Century), but has been popularized now by sites like 4Chan and Icanhascheezburger.com.
Here’s how you can learn how to speak lolcat.
Lying down is the favorite pastime for many. But the world didn’t quite imagine that it could be turned into a game. Fad or not, I personally don’t fancy myself lying face down in open public spaces. Though, the world is doing it and thanks to social media has turned it into a photo fad. Quite appropriately it broke out “Down Under” in Australia. Oh yes, it is simply not about being face down on a flat surface. There are rules. There’s an official Facebook Group and an official home, and to top it all, a global planking day.
Read this Washington Post article to understand why people plonk face down. But I still don’t get it. I prefer sitting.
Prince Harry’s Naked Army
This one is the one that’s on right now. Thanks to the Royal heir and his escapades. The Facebook photo fad started its explosion with soldiers of the British armed forces stripping naked or to their underwear and giving a military-style salute in support of British Prince Harry of Wales. Of course, it had its origins in the antics of the British Royal playing strip-billiards (that has the potential to be a fad in itself) in Las Vegas recently.
If you would like to “show” your support (literally), here’s the Facebook Group.
Just ten is like scratching the back of an elephant for one flea. When it comes to fads, they are as varied as they are bizarre. These ten have been drawn from my memory and a bit of research. It is quite possible I may have left out one that was really popular. Where you part of one? Which are the fads you really enjoyed? Maybe, it’s the current rage for Gangnam Style dancing or even Flash mobs? Who knows what will strike us next. Share away in the comments.