Laurel vs. Yanny, Gangnam Style, the Dress: Relive the top viral moments of the decade

This decade was many things. An emotional roller coaster? Check. An ecological disaster? You bet. A political dumpster fire? M-hm.

But above all, it was extremely, extremely long

As we bid farewell to the quasi-era and say hello to a fresh new one, it’s not only time to look forward to all there is in store just around the corner, but also a chance to take a good look back at all we’ve witnessed over the past 10 years. 

Lest we forget, in retrospect, all of the viral stories and heroes that #broketheinternet, brought us together and, above all, mended our weary souls from 2010 to 2019. We salute you. 

2010: Antoine Dodson

Antoine Dodson went viral nearly 10 years ago following just about one of the most iconic local news interviews ever recorded. A suspect allegedly broke into the home Dodson shared with his family and climbed into bed with his sister, Kelly. Hearing her screams, Dodson ran to help. Thankfully, he was able to rescue his sister from the attacker, who ran from the scene. News crews who spoke with the Dodsons after the incident were treated to a delightful on-camera performance by the hero, who would go on to become one of the greatest viral sensations of the decade.

“He’s climbing in your windows, he’s snatching your people up, trying to rape them, so y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband, ’cause they’re raping everybody out here,” Dodson told reporters in his soon-to-be iconic tone.

A remix of Dodson’s comments went on to rack up 145 million views on YouTube. You can run and tell that, homeboy.

2011: Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’

Just because you hate it doesn’t mean it didn’t go viral. 2011 brought with it the nerve-grating tune “Friday,” one-hit-wonder Rebecca Black’s decidedly worst work. The heavily autotuned song, which was so corny it almost seemed like a joke, was played everywhere that year, from radio stations to house parties, and everywhere in between. The original video has even racked up 138 million views on YouTube alone.

Black was only 13 years old when she recorded the song and music video, which cost her family just $4,000 to create, Junkee reports. Coincidentally, revenue and fame generated by the viral video likely set the Blacks up for life. 

“Which seat can I take?” you ask, Rebecca? The one closest to the exit, thank you. 

2012: Gangnam Style

It’s truly difficult to think of a more globally viral phenomenon than “Gangnam Style,” the name of which pays homage to the lifestyles led in the colorful Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea. 

The entire world was gripped in 2012 by K-pop artist Psy’s whimsical electronic tune, along with the equine-inspired dance that went along with it. The catchy beat topped music charts around the world and even peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The language-transcending song’s equally insane music video has racked up an astounding 3.4 BILLION views on YouTube since then and remained the platform’s most-viewed video for nearly five years until it was dethroned by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” in 2017.

But, fans of the throwback jam need not fret — “Gangnam Style” still holds strong as the seventh most-viewed YouTube video of all time. Ride on, Psy.

2013: Harlem Shake 

Who among us escaped 2013 without having Harlem shaken?

The formula for a viral Harlem Shake video is, seemingly, quite simple — a camera focuses on a space with a handful of normal-looking people going about their business (think an office building with people diligently working or a classroom with students taking a test) while one out-of-place person, the instigator, begins to dance to “Harlem Shake” by Brooklyn-based Latino producer Baauer.

As soon as the beat drops, the entire room cuts to chaos, with many of the previously peaceful parties now wearing costumes and wildly dancing and gyrating around the room.

Although the original Harlem Shake has been around for decades, the people of ’13 seriously loved the trend’s second wind — one popular compilation of Harlem Shake videos racked up over 102 million views on YouTube. 

2014: Ice Bucket Challenge

The summer of 2014 brought with it a cool new fad that actually made a difference. The Ice Bucket Challenge saw millions of people — from teens to parents, nobodies to celebrities and everyone in between — pouring buckets of frigid water atop their heads and sharing footage of it online. The poster would then tag three friends, nominating them to complete the same task within 24 hours — and if they refused, they “had” to donate money to the ALS Association.

It sounds silly, but here’s the thing — it actually worked. 

The campaign, which cashed in on both people’s giving nature and their desire for social media stardom, was so successful it raised over $115 million for the foundation and directly led to the 2016 discovery of a new ALS gene, NEK1, which apparently “ranks among the most common genes that contribute to the disease, providing scientists with another potential target for therapy development.”

“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled the ALS Association to invest in Project MinE’s work to create large biorepositories of ALS biosamples that are designed to allow exactly this kind of research and to produce exactly this kind of result,” Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., M.B.A. said in a press release at the time.

Ya simply love to see an internet fad bring about positive change in the world. Unlike…

2015: The Dress

Credit: Tumblr

It ruined relationships. It tore families apart. #Dressgate 2015 might, in fact, remain the closest the world has ever been to WWIII (kidding … sort of.)

The whole debacle started after a mother innocuously took a photo of a dress she spotted at a store and sent it to her daughter, at whose wedding she planned to wear it. Apparently, the bride-to-be showed the photo to her then-fiancé, and the two vehemently disagreed on what color the dress was. 

The bride shared a photo of the dress on Facebook, where her friends also began to argue over its true color — black and blue or white and gold? A friend of the bride, Caitlin McNeill, decided to share the photo on Tumblr, and the rest is more or less history.

With Twitter reporting a whopping 4.4 million tweets debating the color of the dress between Feb. 26 and 27 of 2015 alone, it seems nobody went unaffected by the mental anguish caused by the devil garment. (And in case you were wondering, yes, the dress actually was blue and black, according to its manufacturer. Take that, gold-sayers.) 

2016: Dat Boi

Credit: Tumblr

Perhaps the first entry on the list that needs a true explanation is dat boi, a green, unicycling frog who rode his way into our lives in 2016 with his catchphrase “here come dat boi,” (the appropriate response to which is, “o s*** waddup!” in case it was unclear.)

The cartoon frog was randomly created by artists at an animation company called Animation Factory, which produces weird internet GIFs and photos similar to dat boi.

The frog — which Ryan Hagen, a former employee at Animation Factory, once described as “bizarre off-the-wall garbage” — received modest attention online until it was eventually paired with the aforementioned text, which originated from an old, semi-viral Tumblr post featuring a picture of Pac-Man. The combination immediately took off, spawning thousands upon thousands of spinoffs

And … that’s just about all there is to know about dat boi. 

As for why it’s funny or why it became a certified thing? The internet is a weird place.

2017: Fyre Festival 

In terms of viral catastrophes, this one takes the cake white bread and single slice of cheese.

Twitter users took a weird sort of pleasure in watching the doomed inaugural (and, likely, final) Fyre Festival crash and burn in real-time. The absolute catastrophe of a music festival, dreamt up by convicted fraudster Billy McFarland and promoted by the likes of models Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, was well-documented online by the three-day event’s main clientele — Instagram influencers, who are well-known for their oversharing tendencies.

The festival, which promised an unprecedented level of glitz and glamor for attendees, began to unravel as soon as the first planeload of guests touched down in the Bahamas — the world-class “gourmet catering” turned out to be cheese sandwiches and side salads served in styrofoam containers, the chic and luxurious bungalows turned out to be actual FEMA tents and the musical guests … well, they didn’t show up.

Posts on the festival fallout quickly went viral and took over social media, spawning an entire account dedicated to the epic failure, and later inspiring documentaries on both Netflix and Hulu about what the hell happened. 

Some men just want to watch the world burn, I suppose. 

2018: Laurel vs Yanny

Many viral debates over the years have had the audacity of designating themselves “the dress 2.0.” But if there ever were a story anywhere near as polarizing as the “black and blue” vs. “white and gold” debacle of 2015, “Laurel” vs. “Yanny” may have been it. The debate surrounds a four-second audio clip in which a robotic voice repeats a word over and over, which sounds like “laurel” or “yanny” depending on the listener (although some particularly skilled listeners claim they can hear the voice say either, based on which word they’re thinking about at the moment.) 

The bitter debate prompted scientists to investigate the interesting phenomenon. The conclusion? The difference has to do with the way the human brain processes the “unnatural sounds” contained in the clip, Dr. Bradford May, an auditory expert at Johns Hopkins University, told Yahoo Finance in 2018.

“Computer synthesis programs can produce unnatural sounds that fall on the boundaries between the two sounds,” he explained. “The listener will place these chimeric sounds into one category or the other depending on the best match. Because humans have differences in their auditory function and category boundaries, some will hear ‘yanny,’ while others will hear ‘laurel.'”

“You will never confuse ‘yanny’ and ‘laurel’ when spoken by actual talkers, because they can only produce natural sounds that fall within the distinct parameter spaces of the two sounds,” he added.

Finally, one where everyone wins. 

2019: Storm Area 51 

Credit: Facebook

“They can’t stop all of us.” 

At least, that’s what one Facebook event looking to “storm Area 51” to “see them aliens” had people believing. 

The ill-contrived scheme, which was started as a joke before it snowballed out of control thanks to overzealous internet users, plotted a Sept. 20 raid on the secretive government base where participants would be so numerous that officials could not stop them from discovering classified information contained in the area — namely, aliens, which people really wanted to set “free.” 

“If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets,” the Facebook event’s description read. 

The joke got so big that companies like Budweiser even muscled in on the action, promising “free Bud Light to any alien that makes it out.” 

Although netizens and celebrities like Guy Fieri seemed to elate in the raid’s concept, you can guess who may not have seen the humor in it — the U.S. Air Force, which took the joke far too seriously and shut the whole thing down. 

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews told the Washington Post. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

Party poopers. 

To our beloved 2010-2019 memes, thank you for the laughs and the tears, you will be dearly missed when we eventually forget about your existence.

Onto the next ones!

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