The internet is a strange, strange place. It seems like every few months there are viral trends that sweep the web, take over every social media platform, and inevitably become super annoying. When internet videos, trends, and memes first became a thing, they lasted for a much longer time than they do nowadays.
Now it seems like memes pop up out of nowhere and turn stale in about 24 hours. So, we’re looking back and some insanely-popular viral trends from a few years back that seemed to last for an absurd amount of time. Some of them were good for a few laughs, some were wholesome, and some were straight-up bizarre, but we’d like for them to stay far, far in the depths of the internet, TBH.
18. Charlie the Unicorn
If you somehow managed to miss the Charlie the Unicorn video trend, consider yourself lucky. This was one of those viral trends that became popular among middle school audiences because it was just so bizarre. This video debuted in 2005, and the original video has over 31.8 million views. If you’re not aware of the premise, it basically shows two animated unicorns going on an adventure to candy mountain. The unicorns convince a hesitant Charlie to follow them on their journey and urge him to go explore a cave once they arrive. It ends with Charlie waking up and realizing the other unicorns took his kidneys. I truly don’t know how to describe the video any better, but somehow it took over the internet for a long-ass time.
17. Salad Fingers
If you thought Charlie the Unicorn was weird, remember Salad Fingers?! Salad fingers was one of those viral YouTube series that your friends would make you watch in middle school to try and scare you. Only the ~edgiest~ kids could watch the whole thing without freaking out or having nightmares for a week. Watching it was basically every 14-year-old’s rite of passage. The first video was created in 2004 and has over 32.3 million views on YouTube. It’s truly impossible to explain. “Salad Fingers” shows a little green creature with long, green fingers (hence, Salad Fingers) doing truly disturbing things, narrated by his creepy voice. He enjoys sticking his fingers on things (sometimes dead bodies), playing the flute, and occasionally injuring himself. We warned you, it’s pretty f*cked up.
16. Gallon Smashing
This trend is a lot less terrifying than Salad Fingers, but gallon smashing was pretty annoying as far as viral trends go. If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon of gallon smashing, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A bunch of irritating adolescents with nothing better to do walk into a public space (usually a supermarket), and smash a gallon of milk on the ground. Usually, they try to make it look like it was by accident, and involved asking people passing by for help. Because, you know, people working at grocery stores have nothing better to do than clean up the gallon of milk you spilled on purpose.
15. Hamster dance
This was definitely one of the most wholesome viral trends in internet history, that quickly got too popular for its own good. The Hamster Dance isn’t too hard to explain. Basically, the OG Hamster Dance started as a super basic website that played a simple country song, and showed rows of animated hamsters dancing along to it, that was it. It quickly grew popular overnight, and turned into a complex website with different versions of the song, more advanced animations, and its own techno song that you could occasionally hear on the radio. Those were definitely simpler times.
14. Harlem shake
As far as more obnoxious viral trends go, the Harlem Shake may take the cake. It started with a pretty basic techno song that has an intense bass drop. It then became a video trend in which people would quietly dance in place, until the beat drops and all sort of chaos broke loose. Usually it involved over a dozen people jumping in wearing ridiculous clothes and dancing like maniacs. Some people (pretty rightfully) hated this trend, because the Harlem Shake was a very real and completely separate dance that originated in Harlem in the 1980s.
13. Grumpy cat
Grumpy cat was definitely one of the more wholesome viral trends of our time. It started as a simple picture of a cat, whose face looked… well… grumpy. The OG cat had a face that was permanently frowning due to her underbite and feline dwarfism, but she quickly became a meme almost overnight. Basically, her picture went along with memes that expressed negative and cynical experiences or thoughts. You can now buy t-shirts, hats, etc. with this cat’s sad lil’ mug all over them.
12. Chuck Norris facts
No one truly knows how or why the whole Chuck Norris facts trend became viral, but it definitely did. It started as a trend on the Something Awful website, then became its own website listing hundreds of “facts” about Chuck Norris, and quickly spread to separate memes and internet phenomena. They were all “facts” and jokes that had to do with how strong Chuck Norris is. Some examples: “When the Bogeyman goes to sleep he checks under his bed for Chuck Norris.” “Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves.” Or, “There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.” We still don’t get it.
11. Autotune remixes
This is one of those viral trends that was understandably famous because it actually involved a pretty good amount of creative genius. Autotuned remixes became a huge internet trend started by The Gregory Brothers on their YouTube channel, schmoyoho. The brothers would take clips from the news, movies, TV shows, etc. and “songify” them, or take little clips, autotune them, and turn them into full-fledged songs. Their most popular was probably the “Bed Intruder Song,” which has over 139.9 million views on YouTube.
Planking is another one of those viral trends that showed up quickly, lasted for way too long, and quickly disappeared. It even got so popular that one intro of The Office features the cast members planking all over the set. Basically, it involves going into random places, the more precarious or unusual the better, and lying down as straight as possible — like a plank. People would put themselves in bizarre and dangerous situations to get the “best” planking shots possible. It even spawned other similar trends like “owling,” which involved perching on a high object or area on your hands and feet, like an owl.
9. The blue/black or white/gold dress
This is one of the more recent viral trends and was so divisive it had the potential to cause great riffs among friends and loved ones. It was so infamous it is now simply known as “The Dress.” It started when someone posted a picture of The Dress on Tumblr, and it quickly garnered so much attention that there were over ten million tweets about it on Twitter. Basically, the image shows a (confirmed) blue and black striped dress, that many people saw as white and gold. It turns out the perceptions of the image are due to the different ways people interpret color and issues of neuroscience. The image was so controversial there have even been peer-reviewed scientific journals on it.
8. Damn Daniel
Damn Daniel was a viral trend that all started with one friend supporting/mocking his friend’s fashion choices in a video. The protagonist, Daniel Lara, was a boy who wore white vans pretty frequently. His friend, Joshua Holz, posted a video of himself shouting “Daaaamn, Daniel. Back at it again with the white Vans” in 2016. He made tons of these videos on Snapchat, and they were quickly compiled into video montages that took over Twitter. The original compilation video on Twitter has over 300,000 retweets. There’s even a remixed, techno version of the dialogue that got turned into a song.
The whole Slenderman thing is one of those viral trends that got way out of hand, way too quickly. It started as a creepypasta story that was posted on the Something Awful forums. It then became the center of thousands of internet posts, videos, conspiracy theories, and urban legend. Basically, Slenderman is a tall, lanky figure with tentacle-like extremities. He can teleport places, and essentially stalks people, and drives people to insanity by following and controlling them. Once people are subject to his control, he can make them commit violent acts. Basically, he was every young internet user’s worst nightmare and even lead to some real-life crimes.
6. Charlie Bit My Finger (and remakes)
To talk about way more wholesome viral trends than the Slenderman, we have the “Charlie Bit Me” video. If you somehow missed this, it was basically one of the first viral videos on YouTube, ever. The original video has over 861.4 million views, just to give you an idea of how popular it was. It’s just a video of two, cute brothers. The younger one chomps on his older brother’s finger, who laughs at first and quickly starts yelling and crying. Honestly it’s not super remarkable, but the cute little boy with a British accent definitely helps. The video inspired countless remakes and remixes, in which thousands of other people remade the video in their own homes.
5. The mannequin challenge
This is a pretty recent viral trend that seemed to disappear as quickly as it came. Honestly, it wasn’t that exciting so I’m pretty surprised it got as popular as it did. If you’re not familiar, it’s a video trend in which people set themselves up in funny/interesting situations, and remain completely still while someone walks around filming them, making them look like mannequins. For some reason, every video was set to the song “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd. How it became such a huge sensation? No one truly knows.
4. Ken Bone
Not only is Ken Bone another fairly harmless meme, it’s also one of the only positive things that came out of the 2016 second presidential debate. Ken Bone was just your average American man who got the opportunity to question the presidential candidates. He immediately became a meme and was completely unavoidable, mostly due to his goofy mannerisms and bold, red sweater. The best Ken moment was probably when he was filmed snapping pics on his disposable camera before and after the debate. The debate happened just before Halloween and inspired some genuinely creative costumes.
3. Diet coke and mentos
This is honestly one of the coolest viral trends that ever existed, and also encouraged scientific experimentation (while probably pissing off a lot of parents). The diet coke and mentos experiment first went viral in 2005 thanks to scientist Steve Spangler, and was quickly replicated thousands of times by other curious YouTubers. If you’re somehow not acquainted with the experiment, it’s super simple. Basically, you put a roll of mentos into a 2-liter bottle of diet Coke, and it creates a huge, geyser-like reaction.
2. Kylie Jenner lip challenge
The Kylie Jenner lip challenge was quite frankly one of the dumbest internet trends in recent years. It’s basically a trend where teens would use suction (usually using a shot glass or something of the sort) to try and make their lips as swollen as possible, you know, like Kylie Jenner. While some of them looked pretty decent, some looked super hilarious, but some unfortunate people had super bad reactions that led to swelling, bruising and other disastrous results.
1. Cinnamon Challenge
Speaking of people physically harming themselves for five minutes of internet fame, remember the cinnamon challenge? In terms of hilariousness, the cinnamon challenge may definitely take the cake. It’s also hands-down one of the dumbest viral trends of our generation. It usually took place in the form of YouTube videos, and showed people attempting to swallow spoonfuls of cinnamon. Since cinnamon’s a super fine powder, it usually ended in people inhaling the dust and essentially choking themselves for a few minutes, all for our entertainment.