The internet is a force for both good and evil. On the one hand, it’s given us more awesome top ten sites and videos of cats falling over than you can shake a proverbial stick at. On the other, it’s sparked endless crazes that run the whole gamut of awful from “really stupid” to “probably deadly.” Here we round up the top 10 worst internet fads of all-time, from dumbass dances, to stupid poses, to shoving condoms up your noses (yeah, really)…
10. Pokémon Go – Landmines and Accidents
At time of writing, Pokémon Go is the biggest thing happening on the entire internet. It’s so big, in fact, that reptilian creatures living on Mars can see it with the naked eye. An ‘augmented’ reality game that allows players to track Pokémon across locations in the real world, it has been responsible for players getting more exercise, for Americans learning the metric system…and for endless horrific accidents and acts of obnoxiousness.
First, the accidents. Because Pokémon Go requires players to stare at their phones as they walk around places they’ve never been to before, the game has led to many people wandering into situations they really shouldn’t be in. In America, for example, armed robbers have used the game’s Pokestop feature to lure people into darkened alleyways. If you’re talking about other places, it’s even worse. In Bosnia, players have been lured out into the middle of active minefields.
Then there’s the obnoxious side. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently had to beg people not to come onto their premises to catch Pokemon. That’s right: some players are so dead inside that they will actually go looking for Pikachu inside a memorial to the Jewish victims of Nazi genocide. If that doesn’t prove we’re living in an idiocracy, we don’t know what will.
9. #YOLO – Car Crashes and Spoiled Rich Kids
If a week is a long time in politics, in internet terms it’s probably closer to ice ages. The #YOLO craze only struck in 2012, but already it feels like it happened in another lifetime. An acronym for You Only Live Once, it was something people tweeted, usually with a selfie, just before doing something slightly odd or dangerous.
That’s not hyperbole. People really were doing some stupid stuff in the name of YOLO. A 21-year old wannabee rapper named Ervin McKinness tweeted a shot of himself drunk driving at 120 MPH with the caption #YOLO. In his case, he probably should’ve taken the acronym’s meaning to heart. His dumb stunt caused him to lose control of the car and die in a fiery crash that killed four other people. The moron.
Even when YOLO wasn’t dramatically shortening peoples’ only lifespans, it was still annoying. Nearly everyone who tweeted it was an annoying rich kid on the verge of doing some annoying rich kid thing, like bungee jumping, or sky diving, or (hopefully) sticking their stupid rich faces into a whirring fan.
8. Owling – The Poor Man’s Planking
Planking was a short-lived craze from the UK, which involved people taking pictures of themselves lying flat (like a plank of wood) in bizarre locations. Sure, it annoyed some people, but we didn’t really have a problem with it. It was what came next that made us slowly lose faith in the idea of a loving God. The creation of Owling.
Owling involved people squatting hunched-over on their feet, staring into the distance. Yes, like an owl. Gangs of smug twenty-somethings would get together and do it in groups, post the photos to the internet, and a new craze was born.
Or not, which is exactly why we hate it so much. Planking came out of people’s natural desire to do something silly and put it online. Owling came out of peoples’ natural desire to get mildly-famous for starting an internet trend. It was just a bunch of hipsters riding the coattails of a genuine, bottom-up craze. Pro tip: when you have to title your first video ‘the new planking!’ you don’t have the new planking. You have Owling. And nobody wants Owling.
7. The Duct Tape Challenge – Terrifying Head Injuries
Man. In our day, tying someone up with duct tape and daring them to escape used to be called ‘kidnapping’. Now apparently it’s a ‘challenge’. Semantics aside, the duct tape challenge blew up in early 2016 on YouTube. To play, you just get your friends to wind as much duct tape around you as possible. Then you try to escape. Simple, right?
Sure. Unless things happen to go badly wrong, leaving you with horrific brain injuries.
14-year old Skylar Fish was the unlucky recipient of these injuries. Whilst doing the challenge, he slipped and fell. Since his arms were duct taped to his side, he couldn’t break his fall. The sharp corner of a window ledge did it for him.
Skylar’s eye socket was crushed, blinding him in one eye. The teenager also suffered a brain aneurysm and required over 40 metal staples to be shot into his skull to (essentially) keep his brain from falling out. We’d make a joke about how duct tape could hold head together as well, but that’d probably be crass.
6. Gallon Smashing – Industrial-grade Obnoxiousness and Arrests
Listen: we know that teenage boys are natural troublemakers. We didn’t spend our teenage years trying to build planet-destroying superweapons without picking stuff like that up. But Gallon Smashing took troublemaking to Everest-like heights of obnoxiousness. A short-lived fad in 2013, it basically involved going to your local store, grabbing a container of milk, and smashing it on the floor.
That was it. Sometimes, you might throw it into other produce and try to smash that as well. Others, you might fall down into the smashed remnants of your dignity and beg passers-by to help you up (the ‘prank’ element). But, really, basically, you were just smashing stuff up and posting videos to the internet, like a drunken redneck at a NASCAR rally.
The craze quickly petered out when everyone realized The Man really isn’t cool with you smashing other peoples’ property up. A bunch of teenage boys got arrested and charged with misdemeanors, and the world gave a collective ‘meh.’
5. Cone-ing – The Prank that Isn’t a Prank
We’re going to have to go right back into the Dark Ages for this one. Cone-ing (or coning, whatevs) is an internet craze from the prehistoric era of 2011. We know, right? It’s also one of the dumbest ‘pranks’ in history. Not because its harmful. If anything, it’s pleasingly restrained. No, cone-ing was absurd because it was a prank that managed to not have any element of pranking to it whatsoever.
The idea was pretty simple. You’d order an ice cream from a drive-thru place. When you got to the window and the bored guy behind the counter handed it over, you’d grab the ice cream and not the cone. At which point… literally nothing would happen. Not one thing. You’d take the cone the incorrect way and drive off. The guy would shrug and go ‘huh, that was an odd way to hold an ice cream’ and go back to work. We can’t stress enough how literally not a single other thing would happen.
That isn’t a prank. It isn’t even a joke. It isn’t even a vaguely-humorous thought. It’s holding an ice cream cone the incorrect way. And yet it got so popular that even Justin Bieber was doing it.
4. The Kylie Jenner Challenge – Unavoidable Grossness
Imagine, for a second, that you are an imbecile. You see a picture of Kylie Jenner’s brand new, puffy lips (circa 2015) and decide it’d be fun to temporarily give yourself a look like that. So you get a glass, put it over your lips and create a vacuum by sucking all the air out. What do you think happens next?
If you answered ‘unbridled horror,’ congratulations, you’re cleverer than all the lunatics who climbed onboard this out-of-control bandwagon.
Artificially puffing up your lips using dubious methods turns out to be very bad for your lips and looks in general. The luckiest got away with having horrendous big, swollen, painful lips that made them look like monsters for a short period of time. The unluckiest had blood vessels explode, their lips tear open, blood spray out, and an avoidable trip to the plastic surgeon. Ironically, opting to go straight for surgery would’ve allowed them to get Kylie Jenner-lips with half the pain, half the cost, and only 90 percent of the self-loathing involved.
3. The Harlem Shake – A Manufactured Viral Hit
In 2012, Gangnam Style became the biggest thing in the history of the internet. Psy’s silly dance caught on to such a degree that the official video racked up 2.6 billion views on YouTube. You could literally make a video, upload it to YouTube, and force every single person in China to watch it twice at gunpoint and still have fewer views than Gangnam Style.
Fast forward a year, and the world was looking for the ‘next Gangnam Style‘. Only there was nothing out there. So a bunch of PR guys got together and decided to cynically manufacture a viral hit that would make them rich. Like fools, everyone fell for it. The name of that faux-viral hit? The Harlem Shake.
In 2013, Quartz magazine published a damning analysis of how corporations manufactured the viral spread of the Harlem Shake to make money. It’s a little complicated, but it basically involves a Warner Bros subsidiary, Maker Studios, ‘borrowing’ somebody’s idea and using their PR machine to get everyone on Earth watching it. Feeling cynical yet? If you could see the size of Maker Studio’s bank balance immediately after everyone started doing the Harlem Shake you would be.
2. The Condom Challenge(s) – Repeated Risk of Suffocation
There are two ‘condom challenges’ that became internet sensations, incredibly. We say ‘incredibly’ because not only should the very words ‘condom challenge’ make all right-thinking people start running as fast as they can in the other direction, but also because both involved a serious risk of suffocation.
The first iteration was probably the worst. In the hazy, halcyon days of 2013, some teens decided to outdo all previous challenges by daring one another to snort a condom. You read that right. Against everything Mother Nature had ever intended for us to experience, those who did the challenge sniffed a condom up one nostril and pulled the long, horrible bit of rubbery grossness out of their mouths. That no-one suffocated is kinda amazing.
The second iteration was also crazy. At its most-basic, it involved filling a condom with water and then putting it over your head and filming the results as you nearly drowned inside a device designed to go on men’s wieners. Although rumors of a teen suffocating surfaced in December 2015, these were only rumors and it’s thought no one actually died from the challenge. Some people claimed this was evidence the game was safe, which is kinda like miraculously surviving a multiple car pile-up and deciding you’re therefore invincible to automobiles.
1. Twerking – Cultural Appropriation and Way Too Much Miley Cyrus
Twerking is a move born in the dance halls of Jamaica and the cities of West Africa. It’s a highly-sexualized dance with a complex history and a whole load of cultural baggage. People have been arguing for decades whether it’s sexy, misogynistic, empowering, disgusting, or just plain fun. Then 2013 rolled around, and suddenly all anyone could discuss was Miley Cyrus’s backside and Robin Thicke’s stupid song.
Twerking became an internet-powered craze after Cyrus rubbed her rump against Thicke’s stump during a TV performance of Blurred Lines. Aside from giving every single person on Earth who saw it lasting nightmares that will never cease to haunt the darkest regions of their psyches, it instantly robbed twerking of any semblance of cool and made it the least hip thing you could possibly do (with the possible exception of using ‘hip’ in a sentence). A whole history of alternative culture was wiped out in a single second by Miley’s nightmarish thrusting.
Luckily, this was one of the few times everybody seemed to unanimously agree an Internet Thing was awful. The BBC even named it their most-annoying word of the year.