The internet is a very silly place indeed, and only a fool would wander through its murky shores unprotected.
To celebrate my not-quite-100th blog post, I thought it might be fun to showcase some of the daftest internet moments.
The internet will ruin your online poll
The internet offers instant access to the minds of millions of people from practically every demographic.
What better a place to have a poll, then? It should be easy: Ask the internet a question and reap the rewards of the planet’s collective conscience. Then profit.
But no. Oh no, no, no. That’s not what happens. At all.
The internet names a boat
In 2017, the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) launched an online poll to find a name for a new $288 million polar research ship.
NERC was probably hoping for a grand, sensible name, like RRS Queen Elizabeth II, or RRS Stephen Fry. The fools!
The internet didn’t want to be sensible, though, and collectively decided the boat should be called Boaty McBoatface.
Alas, the spoilsports at NERC over-ruled the poll (then why have one!?) and named the boat RRS Sir David Attenborough.
Fear not, though! In homage to the Boaty that never was, the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg named a new train Trainy McTrainface.
The internet names a whale
As part of a plan to raise awareness about whales threatened by the Japanese Fisheries Agency, Greenpeace held an online poll to name a humpback whale which they would track with a satellite tag.
Greenpeace accepted 30 names for the vote, chief among them was Mr. Splashy Pants. Any ideas as to what happened next? That’s right, the internet happened.
Mr. Splashy Pants attracted the attention of, amongst others, 4chan, BoingBoing, Reddit, and Digg, and members of the aforementioned sites flocked to vote.
The vote share for Mr. Splashy Pants quickly hit 75%—in less than a day. Reddit became so invested, they even temporarily changed their logo to feature Mr. Splashy Pants.
There was a happy ending, though. Despite initial reluctance, Greenpeace embraced the name (are you watching NERC?). And the extra publicity was enough to convince the Japanese government to abandon their plan to hunt the whales.
The internet voted for a 39-year-old man to meet Taylor Swift
When a Boston radio contest featured a chance to meet Taylor Swift, 39-year-old Charles Z decided to have a go.
Most of the entries were, as you can imagine, adoring teenage fans. Guess who the internet wanted to win?
“At one point the leaderboard was 50 happy 13-year-old girls, then there’s a picture of me, hungover, in my bathroom.”
The internet doesn’t care for Limp Bizkit
In 2011, citizens of Austin, Texas, voted to rename the city’s Solid Waste Department the Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts.
The name racked up nearly 30,000 votes and even had Fred Durst’s blessing. But, despite topping the poll, the city decided against the winning name and went with Austin Resource Recovery instead. Booooooring.
The internet really loves potato salad
It’s not just naming polls the internet will rally behind, though.
One day, Zack “Danger” Brown got a craving for potato salad, so he started a Kickstarter to raise the $10 needed for ingredients.
“Basically I’m just making potato salad,” he explained on his fundraising page. “I haven’t decided what kind yet.” In the “Risks and challenges” section, he wrote, “It might not be that good. It’s my first potato salad.”
Somehow, Zack’s potato salad went viral, and he managed to raise more than $55,000.
Zack used all the extra money to throw a public party called PotatoStock in his hometown. Of course, he made lots of potato salad at the event and donated proceeds to charities that fight hunger in Ohio.
Well played, Zack.
The internet doesn’t care what you think the hashtag says
Susan Boyle’s PR agency decided to hold a party to celebrate her new album. Simple enough, you’d think: Susan. Album. Party.
The fun started when the PR agency crafted an innocent Twitter hashtag for promotion:
And that’s when the internet noticed.
In summary: The internet is ridiculous
What a journey. 101 posts! My favorite was probably the time my blog on spam got flagged as spam by Google. Or when I topped the Google rankings for the utterly unsearched for “Lou Reed VPN.” The April fools posts were fun, too.
In truth, when I first arrived at ExpressVPN, I thought a VPN was just how I watched iPlayer when on holiday. But now I wouldn’t connect to the internet without one—it’s madness out there.
Do you have any tales of internet idiocy? Any crackers I’ve missed off the list? I’d love to hear them, so please share your stories in the comments below!
Also published on Medium.