Ben Sledge 21st March 2018
Since starting in 2006 as a weird 140 character version of Facebook, Twitter has grown into a leading social network. These days, everyone and their nan is on Twitter. Well not my nan. But she doesn’t even have access to the internet.
Twitter is the place to go for posting short and sweet updates, stalking celebrities, and, in recent years, keeping up to date with the latest memes. Memes, or “viral” images and tweets, can often propel otherwise normal Twitter users to dizzying heights of all-too-brief fame. But what is it like to have your moment in the spotlight, to have tens of thousands of people read what you wrote, and share it with their own friends? On Twitter’s 12th birthday, we spoke to 3 viral tweeters about their 140 characters of fame.
Lindsay Martin (@lindsaymartin15) — 54,509 Retweets and 111,078 Likes*
“Well I was just sitting at work one day and my mom texted it [the picture] to me. So I just tweeted it thinking my friends that knew [my dog] Wembley would think it was hilarious, but I had no idea that a few days later it would be getting thousands of hits.”
Lindsay enjoyed her time being somewhat famous, and so did her dog Wembley.
“I enjoyed it making everyone laugh! It was crazy seeing it all over Instagram and other media profiles as well. I’m really happy that Wembley was able to make so many people laugh! He’s a goofball and such a sweet boy.
“Everyone thought it was really cool and a lot of my friends wanted to come and take pictures with him! I did receive some criticism by people saying he would get cold, which was silly. I also got a lot of people saying he wasn’t a standard poodle which was definitely not true. Most comments were funny though and my family really loved reading through them.”
Despite the post being nearly a year and a half old, people are still reading about and sharing Wembley’s laughable barnet.
“I still get a lot of notifications from it. For a few months after I tweeted it, I had to have my twitter notifications turned off because it started literally crashing my phone. Now it’s not too bad, but I still probably get 50-100 likes/retweets/quotes from it every week!”
It made me realize that you have to watch what you put on social media
When asked if she had anything to say to Twitter users or wannabe viral stars, Lindsay offered some words of warning:
“It made me realize that you have to watch what you put on social media, I’m glad I never tweeted/posted anything questionable because people were going through my page with a fine tooth comb. I would have someone retweet something from years ago!
“It was almost violating but it didn’t bother me too much — you can’t really get annoyed with someone looking through your page, because that’s what it’s for, right?”
The unexpected fame is over as fast as it began, and Lindsay is back to being one of us norms, the regular Twitter users without a horde of fans or a blue tick next to our names.
“It was really crazy how fast and wide it spread. I honestly didn’t even think it was that funny!”
The Overtake can also confirm that Wembley is indeed a good boy.
Lucybelle Holmes (@lucybelleh) – 30,029 Retweets and 34,051 Likes*
Without trying to make this into some kind of competition judged on online engagement and pixel sharing, Lucybelle’s tweet didn’t gather quite as much attention as Lindsay’s, but still reached heights that most users can only dream of. Her viral tweet captured the hearts of Star Wars fans and non-nerds alike, and we asked for her thoughts.
“To be honest the success of the Obi Wan Kenobi tweet was unprecedented, and I can only attribute it to the magnitude of Star Wars fans who really really love Ewan MacGregor, and also have a soft spot for mums.
“It’s truly not even in my top five funniest tweets I’ve ever done, but people just bloody love Star Wars content regardless.”
The force (of Twitter) was strong with this one, and Lucybelle’s mum’s innocent error quickly snowballed into A New Hope for the former to attain some level of notoriety on the popular site.
Naturally the fame was intoxicating
“I think it was raking in a satisfying amount of likes fairly soon-ish, seeing as I would usually consider five likes to be a roaring success, but then after a few days the exponential growth meant there were hundreds of people in my mentions tweeting me Star Wars puns that I didn’t even get because I’ve only seen one film and didn’t rate it to be honest.”
However, when she realised the unlimited power at her fingertips, Lucybelle was tempted by the dark side of Twitter. Famous YouTubers and Twitterers often get given products to review (completely impartially, of course), and the freebies called to her on a spiritual level.
“Naturally the fame was intoxicating and it was especially nice to gain a couple of hundred followers at the start, I wondered if this might be the start of my exciting career as a famous internet person like Zoella getting lots of things for free without having to do any work, but sadly it all went a bit Kings of Leon when I couldn’t sustain the kind of content people were looking for because I don’t actually know anything about Star Wars.”
The response to her humourous tweet seemed mostly positive, but, as with all things on the fickle website we know and love, the likes soon trickled to a halt.
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to Ewan MacGregor for any inconvenience caused
“Where once the responses of ‘lol yes it IS jesus!’ And ‘may the force be with you’ or even ‘um actually did you know there IS a film where Ewan MacGregor plays Jesus’ may have sated my burning desire for online attention, nowadays they only serve as a reminder of what could have been, if only I knew what the hell anyone was on about.”
When asked if there was anything she’d like to say about her brief fame, Lucybelle responded with humility.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to Ewan MacGregor for any inconvenience caused, and if anyone would like to purchase the framed photo as a piece of meme history for the rock bottom price of £149.99 please do not hesitate to DM me.”
So, there you have it. A once-great tweet has now fallen from grace, left to dwell in the dim and dark depths of our brains, all but forgotten by the ever-shifting sands of social media.
Lucybelle’s most recent tweet only has a measly four likes*.
Austin (@shookshack) – 54,229 Retweets and 188,328 Likes*
This is the first true meme in our list. Austin capitalised on an image that was already doing the proverbial rounds on social media, by adding his own witty caption, and thus created his own joke, and viral tweet.
“I saw the meme circulating a lot that day, and the caption I used was the first thing that came to mind. It totally references memes I’ve seen in the past.”
Austin was helped on his way by utilising an image that Twitter users already associated with a joke, but his caption propelled it to heights of fame that only Will Young has ever seen before.
“I remember checking my phone about 20 minutes after posting it and it already had a couple of hundred likes. My friend and I were out running errands all day I would occasionally check as it was steadily growing into the thousands, then tens of thousands, and so on. I’ve had tweets go viral before, but nothing as quickly as that one did.”
I definitely didn’t expect Michaela Coel to respond
His caption not only caught the attention of the world, but also of the actress depicted in the image itself.
“I definitely didn’t expect Michaela Coel to respond. That’s never happened to me. And what I love about it is she wasn’t tagged or anything, so someone either showed it to her, sent it to her, or she saw it on her own and liked it enough to respond. And afterward, like all memes, it reached its peak and we moved on to something else.”
It just goes to show that the internet is fucking huge. And sometimes, we norms can make those blue-ticked, better-than-the-rest-of-us celebrities laugh too. But more than anything else, Austin’s final comment has stuck with me:
“I love memes, and I truly think Twitter comes up with the best of them.”
Twitter is a place about coming together, laughing together. Wherever you are, whoever you are, we all laugh the same. Apart from Jimmy Carr. Twitter isn’t about the news, it isn’t even about fame, and it most certainly isn’t about listening to any of the drivel that will come out of the @POTUS Twitter account over the next three years.
Twitter is about laughter, memes, and pictures of good dogs.
*all retweets and likes accurate at the time of writing
Ben Sledge 21st March 2018